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First wild grass species and model system for energy crops sequenced
Date:2/10/2010

WALNUT CREEK, CAAs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) works toward developing sustainable sources of clean renewable energy, perennial grasses have emerged as major candidates for the commercial production of cellulosic biofuels from feedstocks. However, little is known about the specific biological traits of the grasses that might contribute to their usefulness for energy production, in part because such grasses typically have long lifecycles and possess large, complex genomes, making them difficult to study.

Representative genomes for two of the three major subfamilies of grasses ⎯ those that include rice, maize, sorghum and sugar cane⎯ have already been sequenced. Now in the February 11 edition of the journal Nature, the International Brachypodium Initiative, a consortium which includes researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), presents the complete sequence of the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon. B. distachyon has many features in common with grasses, making it an ideal tool for developing grasses specifically tailored for biomass and biofuel production.

As the first wild grass species to be sequenced, Brachypodium completes a strategic triad of sequenced major grass genomes, from the three most economically important subfamilies of grasses, enabling researchers to compare complete genomes across these three grass subfamilies for the first time. With its 272 million-nucleotide genome now available to the public, the tiny grass affectionately known to its devoted research community as "Brachy" also serves as a genomic navigation system for rapidly tracking down traits of agronomic interest within the much larger wheat and barley genomes (16 billion and five billion nucleotides, respectively).

"The sequencing and analysis of the Brachypodium genome is an important advance toward securing sustainable supplies of food, feed and fuel from new generations of grass crops," said DOE JGI collabora
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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