Two West Virginia University scientists have had their research on how cold weather impacts wheat production published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Dale Karlson, an assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, and Kentaro Nakaminami, a post-doctoral researcher in Karlsons laboratory, conducted the research under the leadership of Ryozo Imai of the National Agricultural Research Center for the Hokkaido Region in Sapporo, Japan.

Their article, published in the June 27 issue of PNAS , examines the function of similar genes associated with the ability to tolerate cold that are found in both bacteria and winter wheat. Imais lab previously developed a strategy to identify genes that are triggered under low temperature conditions in winter wheat. The process yielded approximately 30 different cold-regulated genes, and Imai subsequently identified the gene (WCSP1) which was later found by the efforts of Karlson and Nakaminami to be directly correlated to the adaptation to low temperature stress in wheat.

Karlson and Nakaminama both completed post-doctoral research in Imais laboratory prior to coming to WVU .

The Hokkaido region of Japan is known both for its agricultural productivity and its extremely cold temperatures and high level of snowfall. It is recognized as one of the birthplaces for the studies of cold tolerance in plants, though WVU is rapidly building a reputation in the discipline thanks to researchers like Karlson and Nakaminami.

While cold induced genes similar to WCSP1 have been studied extensively in bacteria, their functional role in the entire plant kingdom is new territory.

Were right at the forefront of this field of study,said Karlson, who is completing a study on the subject for the National Science Foundation.

His research team is currently studying cold-triggered genes in several model plant systems.

Ultimate goals of low temperature stress studies aim to identify varieties of plants with agricultural production value that could be cultivated in places that might have otherwise excellent growing conditions but have a climate that’s too cold or a growing season that is too short,”Karlson said.It is hoped that any advancement of knowledge with our studies may move us one step closer towards reaching these goals.

PNAS is one of the world’s most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials. Since its establishment in 1914, it continues to publish cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews and perspectives.

While they are honored to have been included in such a prestigious publication, Karlson and Nakaminami, a native of the Hokkaido region, are equally thrilled to see their mentors work recognized at this level.

Dr. Imais research is the foundation of our current research at WVU ,Karlson said.