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Making new species without sex
Date:6/11/2014

This news release is available in German.

Occasionally, two different plant species interbreed with each other in nature. This usually causes problems since the genetic information of both parents does not match. But sometimes nature uses a trick. Instead of passing on only half of each parent's genetic material, both plants transmit the complete information to the next generation. This means that the chromosome sets are totted up. The chromosomes are then able to find their suitable partner during meiosis, a type of cell division that produces an organism's reproductive cells. This allows the plants to stay fertile and a new species is generated. Examples for such a combination of two genomes, called allopolyploidy, are found abundantly in both wild plants and crops like wheat, rapeseed and cotton. Now, for the first time, Ralph Bock's group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology could show that new species can be generated in an asexual manner as well.

As in previous studies, Bock's group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology used a method called grafting. It is generally known from nature that plants are able to grow together at their contact zones. In horticulture and viticulture, growers make use of this ability to bring characteristic traits of two varieties together without crossing them. For example, this method is used to play a trick on grape phylloxera, a notorious pest of commercial grapevines that attacks the roots of the plants. By grafting pest-sensitive elite grape cultivars onto pest-resistant wild rootstocks infestation is effectively prevented. It was generally believed that a combination of desired traits can be obtained by grafting, but there is no exchange or recombination of genetic material so-called horizonta
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Contact: Dr. Ralph Bock
rbock@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
49-331-567-8700
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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