Michael Braukus 
Headquarters, Washington, DC       December 14, 1994
(Phone:  202/358-1979)

Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation
(Phone:  703/306-1072)

RELEASE: 94-213


     A joint government research program has been 
established which activities may result in the development 
of plants that can withstand drought, unseasonable 
temperatures, salinity in the soil, and other adverse 
growth conditions.

     Supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation, 
this collaborative program, called the Research Network on 
Plant Sensory Systems (RNPSS), will foster interactions 
among scientists that will increase human understanding of 
how plants sense and respond to various environmental 
signals, such as light, temperature and gravity.

     The program includes the awarding of nine science 
grants totaling more than $5 million over five years.  The 
program also was selected as NASA's ninth Specialized 
Center of Research and Training (NSCORT), continuing a 
program dedicated to space life sciences begun in 1990.

     Plants are vital to humankind's existence.  From 
providing the oxygen we breathe to the foods we eat, plants 
are a renewable resource upon which our existence depends.  
The results of the research supported by this joint program 
will contribute to the long-term health of the environment 
and humans.

     Plants, unlike animals, have not developed specific 
organs that see, hear, and feel various environmental 
stimuli.  Nor can they move to avoid adverse environmental 
conditions.  Yet, plants respond to various environmental 
stimuli and survive significant fluctuations in 
environmental conditions.  Many plant species have evolved 
to take advantage of specific environments they live in.

     When the environment becomes extremely harsh, some 
plants shut down certain functions and preserve only the 
bare minimum set of functions to wait for a better growing 
condition.  There are some indications that common 
mechanisms might be operating in plants' perception of and 
response to different environmental signals.

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     How plants perceive and respond to the environmental 
signals is one of the major unanswered questions in 
biological sciences.  Recent advances in biotechnology 
provide scientists an unprecedented opportunity to find 
answers to this long-standing question.

     The nine research projects awarded grants were 
selected based on their scientific excellence from 35 
applicants.  All nine projects focus on the question of how 
plants perceive environmental signals and how those signals 
bring about growth and development of plants.  An 
additional objective of the grants is to enhance 
opportunities for university students to receive research 
training in multidisciplinary and collaborative activities.

     Awards under this program are exclusively for ground-
based research.  If research requires a microgravity 
environment for concept verification it will be considered 
for flight opportunities by NASA's Office of Life and 
Microgravity Sciences and Applications at a later date on a 
competitive basis.

FY 1994 List of Research Grant Recipients


Sarah Assmann, Pennsylvania State University, 
                            University Park, PA 
Ronald Davis, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Michael Evans, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Jeffrey Harper, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA
Joseph J. Keiber, University of Illinois at 
                  Chicago, Chicago, IL 
Barbara Pickard, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Dieter Soll, Yale University, New Haven, CT 
Edgar Spalding, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 
Fedora Sutton, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD

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