Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A protein database that will serve as a vital research tool for investigating how plants respond to environmental change is to be developed under a partnership between The University of Western Australia and Agilent Technologies.

The UWA-based Australian Research Centre (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology will use Agilent's informatics systems in its research to build a unique plant protein monitoring database.

The database will be shared with a global community of interested researchers and used to address future challenges such as how to feed an ever-increasing population, and how to get plants to grow in arid, cold or high salt environments.

Plant Energy Biology Chief Investigator, Winthrop Professor Harvey Millar, said the collaboration gave researchers access to technology that would allow them to revolutionise the way that scientists interrogate their data.

"We aim to produce an electronic notepad for lab results, where data are accessible for colleagues in the lab next door, and collaborators across the nation and around the world," he said.  "Results are automatically updated into relevant databases and cross-matched to find previously unknown interactions.  This will save time and also guarantee the integrity of data, so scientists can get on with the important tasks of discovery and innovation."

Mr Rod Minett, General Manager, Life Sciences South Asia Pacific and Korea, Agilent Technologies said: "Data mining and management are gaining importance in today's collaborative life science research environment.

"This announcement with UWA marks the first time a database for plant protein monitoring is created, and to have this creation using Agilent HPLC Chip-LC instrument along with our Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) software and our Enterprise Content Manager (ECM) is yet another novel approach to addressing a niche in the scientific community."

In this project, the UWA team will modify Agilent software (Agilent OpenLab ELN and ECM) workflows to develop a research lab-specific electronic environment.

The data will be used to search for unknown links between different plant species and their responses to drought, cold, salinity and low nutrition.  It will also provide a pipeline for targeted analysis of defined sets of plant proteins to answer specific research questions.

"Gone are the days when protein analysis is all about ‘shotgun searches' for whatever can be found in a sample. The future will see targeted analysis of defined proteins using the power of peptide mass spectrometry," said Plant Energy Biology Research Assistant Professor Nicolas Taylor.

The project is part of a longer-term collaboration between UWA and Agilent Technologies.  Recently Agilent provided matching funding for a new triple quadrupole instrument which will allow accurate quantification of the levels of known plant proteins, information vital to the project.

Media references

Professor Harvey Millar (ARC Plant Energy Biology) (+61 8)  6488 7245  /  (+61 4) 20 308 534
Sui-Ching Low (Agilent Technologies, Asia)  (+65)  6215 8975
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8)  6488 5563  /  (+61 4) 32 637 716


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