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Little plant tells big stories
Date:8/29/2011

Understanding which genes control traits, like when a plant will flower, what soil type is best or its ability to persist in drought conditions provides insight into the ability of plants to adapt to new environments. This type of scientific data is important for crop improvement and significant to human well being.

An international collaboration of researchers, including biologists at the University of Utah (the U), compared genetic data from 19 different strains of a humble plant called Arabidopsis thaliana. The genome sequences of these strains, 18 of which are presented in the study, will now make it easier to study plants' surprisingly wide trait variation that underlies their adaptability. The results of the study are published online in the journal Nature.

"Arabidopsis thaliana is widely used by the international community and has provided a wealth of knowledge about plant biology," says Richard Clark, University of Utah biologist and one of the authors of this multi-national project. "However, so far our knowledge has come largely from a single Arabidopsis strain, even though other strains can vary greatly in traits like flowering time. By comparing genetic information from multiple strains, we can now understand how genome differences between strains enable plants to adapt to different climates and situations. This means, we are better equipped to understand the genetic processes that underlie variation in traits of ecological and agricultural relevance," he concludes.

The results become a founding part of the 1001 Genomes Project, launched by members of the international Arabidopsis community to catalog genetic information in hundreds of strains from different regions in the world. However, the study goes beyond simply cataloging DNA sequence differences.

"In every cell, there are 'messages' between the gene and the protein it creates, which in turn affects traits," says Joshua St
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Contact: Valoree Dowell
v.dowell@utah.edu
801-403-3128
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert

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