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Hosta Sports (and VBG)?

Hi Kevin and Hosta-open Hostaphiles,
RE:>>"Linkage Mapping" -- yep, use it every time I make a cross!  <VBG>!  Just like dowsing for water!

(Warning:  Lengthy and in-depth Hosta genetics manuscript.  Delete if not interested in Hosta genetics).

I'm finding both a wealth of excellent information and some confusing misinformation from some of our Hosta sports discussions.  It is kind of surprising.  I had thought the science of Hostas would by now have progressed considerably on the continuum toward a deeper understanding of post-transcriptional control of gene expression in the genus.  However, it seems we have been doing a little too much "dowsing" and not enough "linkage mapping".  Maybe we're so wrapped up in expressing our egos that we've neglected to learn how Hostas are expressing their genes?  There is SOME excellent work, yet is it enough?  I think not.

Sure, everyone has an ego and we all like to get it stroked, yet if we are to advance the scientific investigation, some of this bickering and bantering may not be conducive toward reaching that goal.

I've posted multiple times to the hosta-open seeking leads to researchers who might be working on molecular biological analysis of Hosta.  Sometimes we do have some very good discussions about matters of a more serious nature, yet my request for leads has produced only a few; Dr. Ben Zonneveld, Dr. Grazzini (who appears content to pursue other areas of interest at the moment), Dr. Mactrigiano (sp?), and Dr. Kevin Vaughn.  This is a start.  But many of these are not willing to post on the hosta-open.  Apparently, our discussions quickly degenerate into bantering or name calling, so no wonder we can't recruit more legitimate investigators.  This does little in our quest for facts.  Our human tendency is to quickly react when attacked, or at a minimum, become emotionally defensive, for which we certainly can be forgiven, yet how can we make quick progress when we let our emotions consume us?  Some of us would like to get beyond the feud.

Recently, the discussion got to the point that I just backed out and submitted a request to be signed off the hosta-open.  I goofed and did it wrong, so I have still been receiving messages.  I have not posted for some time, until today.  From reviewing the posts and the archives, even the Ph.D.'s are disagreeing about which genetic nomenclature to use.  I was told a while back to read a book on genetics from the '60's or '70's, which I kind of did (my book is circa 1998) but I also made a trip to a molecular biology lab in Ames.  Within a couple of weeks I expect to be working with a lab to perform my first test run on ploidy analysis in Hosta (with the aid of people who actually KNOW what they are doing), starting with 10-20 samples.  I realized that with Ben Z. and Joe H. can't even agree on whether it is Yy or yy, or which is the wild type and which is the indicator for the allele that has been expressed (with both gentlemen being considerably more knowledgeable than I), my chances of contributing to the discussion or advancing the investigation were somewhere between slim and none.  I needed to divert my attention toward gaining empirical evidence and this I am committed to doing.

Because I have enjoyed this topic so much, I'm going to open a secure discussion regarding Hosta genetics at http://dev.hostahaven.com/discus.  And later, after the DNS servers around the world have registered the domain names, http://hostagenetics.com will become valid and I expect I'll move the discussion there.  The topic will obviously be "Hosta Genetics" and I will send a message from that forum inviting people to join if they are interested.  If you would like to be invited, please send me a note privately so that I won't miss anyone who is seriously interested.  Hecklers need not apply and you know who you are.

This is not to detract from the hosta-open, which is THE most excellent forum on the net for the OPEN discussion of Hosta.  Our effort with the Hosta Genetics forum and hostagenetics.com will be more to create a resource for serious discussion on genetics.

Why do I want to do this?  It seems to me, from what little investigation I have done, that we are behind in mapping the genome and proteome of Hosta.  Even the basic understanding of isolating genes, marking them, and using PCR tests to ascertain the presence of specific mappable genes seems to not be a technique utilized by anyone within the Hosta community.  I would LOVE to be corrected on this, and pointed to a Hosta scholar who has been actively researching in this arena.  We know a lot about hormones, quite a bit about sports, and a lot about creating new cultivars through hybridization, but when the primary work that we site regarding Hosta research is from the work of Dr. Kevin Vaughn from 20 years ago, or from Dr. Zonneveld's work of more recent years (but of which many respected investigators and researchers seem to have some trouble accepting), there does seems to be a need to advance the discussion in a more unified manner.  We've got some catching up to do.

The Hosta Wheel committee is of course to be commended, as are many others and for those of us who are interested we KNOW how valuable that work has been.  Thanks to Dan Nelson, Preston Littleton, Bill Nash, Jim Hawes, and the folks who support the HostaSports.com web site.  It is a major reference point for those who are interested in the genus at a much deeper level.

Recently, Joe Halinar seemed to have some concern regarding the accuracy of Flow Cytometry for analyzing the DNA content of Hosta.  Or maybe his comments were more about the inferences drawn by Ben.   While we can offer criticism of Dr. Zonneveld's work, the only legitimate way to lend support to, or to challenge, his results and conclusions, is to replicate some of his experiments.  This will yield empirical evidence which may ultimately be shared in a manner as a Jim Hawes or an Ed Elslager would do in an AHS-HJ article, or Ben in a more technical journal.  It's not enough to just say, "Oh, I don't accept his work because I think he's sloppy", or, "I don't like his broken English and so he must be sloppy in his research", or "He has a different moral ethic than that to which I subscribe, so I will discount his work".  No, the only way to legitimately challenge or support the work of another is by replication which provides empirical evidence upon which you can hang your hat.

Other than my one posting of a few months ago, there has been no indication that anyone will be attempting to replicate Ben's experiments in DNA analysis (the ploidy chimera article) to either add support to or challenge his conclusions.  While there is ample room to challenge some of his other hybridizing statements which may be but conjectures, to challenge his results and conclusions on the ploidy chimera issue requires replication of the work.   I will soon be providing some samples for a test through flow cytometric analysis, and if anyone else wants to have the ploidy on a particular cultivar checked, please get in touch.  I will be seeking samples within a couple of weeks, and over the course of the summer, will do a couple of other batches as the need and warrants and time allows.  I hope we'll run around 100 samples but these things cost money.   IF you want some samples tested,  there will be a nominal fee charged and I have not determined that fee as of yet.  Ben will do these for free however, since his University owns the machine.  I just wanted to find a resource stateside.

As part of this effort, I would like to learn from our Hosta scholars some of the plants that we know with certainty are diploids, triploids and tetraploids (or aneuploids).   I presume this conclusion would be drawn from flow cytometric analysis or through microscopic examination.  I also assume that many capable hybridizers, such as Kevin Walek and many others, know some of these answers.  However, if someone could point me to published works that are readily available, this would be most helpful.  Perhaps a specific article in the AHS-HJ?  As Ben has pointed out, some plants, such as Hirao Tetra, have been presumed tets for many years but when tested, proved not to have been converted.  I cannot offer THESE kinds of questionable plants as standards.  I need a 2C (sieboldiana?)  a 3C (clausa?) and a 4C (vertricosa?) plant that has been tested by multiple researchers that will serve as a standard.  Maybe Ben wants to comment on how he would choose such a plant.

As many of us know, the only necessary criterion for scientific research to be considered valid is the application of the scientific method of study to the effort, and acceptance of the results and conclusions by a group of one's peers.  I don't believe credentials are necessary (though having such quickly establishes a level of credibility that is not otherwise as readily apparent); only a rigorous application of the scientific method of analysis is pertinent.   I don't know if the vast majority of sports are due to transposable elements but this argument has received little review in the current conversations (on the hosta-open) and yet may be a very plausible explanation.  Perhaps this has not been advanced because Ben's assertion of mitotic recombination has been widely accepted, or he has drawn so much flak from peers that he's now needing to take cover, yet has successfully diverted our attention so that we might be vexed and not seek an agruably more defensible explanation.  Much focus has shifted toward refuting his "Rules of Thumb", which may be a valid exercise, but if this effort is at the expense of further research that could accurately investigate the question, this could be a mistake.

Transposable elements, that could prove to be linked through genetic mapping, seem to be a highly plausible explanation (Galbraith, et. al.), but from what investigation I have done, there is little, if any, research on Hosta that address this question.  I believe that berating each other publicly slows down the effort.  Could a separate discussion aid in this process?  I don't know but I intend to find out.

For Jim Hawes, I would publicly praise your very thorough reports and summaries of these Hosta Sports discussions.  I hope that when I die I will have been able to count you among my Hosta friends even though we may never meet.  However, I must offer that to wage this war with Ben publicly, rather than in court or privately (regarding the plagiarism charge) does little to advance the cause.  There are two perspectives on this matter--the legal and the ethical.  Since you two fellas are not able to resolve this between yourselves, whenever we attempt to discuss these matters, all parties are involuntarily drawn into the feud.  While I respect each for his contribution to Hosta science, is it too much to request that you resolve this matter privately rather than through the public airwaves?  It will NEVER be resolved by us because we are not a jury and thus are rendered incapable of reaching an unbiased verdict on this matter.

Toward the goal of pure science, I will be asking those who join the Hosta Genetics Discussion Forum to try hard to eliminate egos and emotions.  I know that is a high calling, but if we are to make progress quickly I believe this is an appropriate request.  If I have to take on the role of Carolyn Schaffner to keep us from attacking each other, then so be it.  I may edit out comments which lend little to the discussion other than to advance the cause of inflammatory rhetoric.  Of course, no one may ever post and then my job will become rather simple, won't it.

While I am but a newbie to this arena, I realized several months ago that Ben Z. offers something of merit to the Hosta community because of his molecular biological research.   Through flow cytometry, he and an associate have published an article listing various ploidy levels in 84 different Hosta cultivars.  While I may tend to agree with Joe Halinar that some of the leaps in logic that Ben takes need to be scrutinized, just as we would scrutinize the work of any researcher, it seems more productive to attempt replication than to simply attack the man because he using poor English grammar or we don't agree with his syntax.  I have had learned people in this field review his study who found no glaring faults with that work.  If we question the validity of flow cytometry, however, then we do have some interesting discussions before us.

I want to commend all of the participants in this Hosta Sports discussion and you know who you are.  I would also offer a "caveat emptor" to any would seek participation in a Hosta genetics discussion with the soul purpose of berating a fellow member or even worse, the discussion moderator.   If NONE wish to be part of the discussion because I am being a bully, then so be it, but I am not inclined to coddle those whose sole agenda appears to be salacity, moral decadence, slander, libelous innuendoes, or waste our time by being flip.

Let me state that I have no intention of trying to control the direction on any discussion on Sports or Hosta genetics.  I know very little on this subject.   It would be ludicrous and impossible for me to attempt to control its direction.  I can, however, take some time to freely invite people who have an interest in Hosta genetics to submit plant samples for testing, and I can ask them to join an open discussion forum, where genetics will be the primary topic.  I hope it's still a free country, even if not a free world.

Finally, if Kevin has made it all the way to the bottom of this posting, perhaps I should learn this acronym <VBG> so that I don't use it incorrectly thought the course of some conversation.

TIA, to all of you Hosta Scholars.  You know who you are...  Party on...

Andrew Lietzow
#1 Plantsman at http://hostahaven.com
1250 41st St
Des Moines, IA 50311-2516

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