People can develop new technologies and animals may migrate to other regions. However, plants are tied to their location. Nevertheless, they have found ways to ensure their survival. This is the case for the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is found throughout the entire northern hemisphere. But how does this small, inconspicuous plant deal with all these different extremes? In order to discover the whole-genome sequence variation, the 1001 Genomes Project was launched in 2008, with eleven research institutes participating worldwide. By investigating the genetic material of about one hundred strains of this plant from different geographical regions, researchers found a huge number of variations: in addition to millions of small differences that lead to a diversity of molecular gene products, they found hundreds of genes that are missing in some strains or have extra copies in others. It is probably this great flexibility within the genetic material that makes this plant particularly adaptable. In the medium term the complete catalog of the genome and gene product variation of a species can be applied to modern plant breeding.
Which genes and gene variants allow different individuals of one species to thrive under very different environmental conditions? The model plant for genetics, the thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, is especially well suited for the investigation of this question. It can deal with heat and drought in northern Africa as well as with cold in the central Asian highlands and temperate zones in Europe. Depending on the region it may display extensive foliage or appear small and fragile, yet it is always the same species. The answer lies without doubt in the diversity of its genetic material.
Detlef Weigel and Karsten Borgwardt from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Gunnar Rtsch from the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory in Tbingen, and Karl Schmid of the University of Hohenheim have, togeth
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