One of the simplest plants on the planet could help scientists create crops to survive the ravages of drought.
The moss Physcomitrella patens is a primitive plant, similar to the first plants which began to grow on land around 450 million years ago. Just one cell thick, these early plants had to adapt to withstand cold, heat and drought without roots or complex leaves. The ability of mosses to survive severe dehydration and then regrow when watered could be of enormous use in crops grown in drought-stricken areas of the developing world.
Scientists from the University of Leeds, with colleagues from Germany, Japan and the USA, have sequenced the genome for Physcomitrella the first non-flowering or lower plant to be sequenced and their findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Science.
Now that they have sequenced the mosss DNA, scientists will be able to identify which genes control these survival tactics and adapt crops to do the same.
The study of Physcomitrella was started at the University of Leeds over 20 years ago by Professor David Cove. Dr Andy Cuming has continued Professor Coves work, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and is part of the international team working on the genome.
Physcomitrella is a really useful plant to study, explains Dr Cuming. In addition to being the link between water-based algae and land plants, it also has many important characteristics which make it special. By sequencing the genome, we can start to identify their genetic basis and use the knowledge for crop improvement.
Physcomitrella has a single haploid genome rather than a double genome from male and female parents which makes it easier to identify which characteristics link to which gene. The moss is also able to integrate new DNA into a defined target in the genome unlike most plants which integrate new DNA randomly. This means that modificatio
|Contact: Clare Elsley|
University of Leeds