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New genome sequence will aid study of important food, fuel crops
Date:2/10/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. A global initiative that includes key scientists from Oregon State University has successfully sequenced the genome of the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon, which will serve as a model to speed research on improved varieties of wheat, oats and barley, as well as switchgrass, a crop of major interest for biofuel production.

The advance was announced today in the journal Nature.

The primary international repository for the Brachypodium genome sequence data, called "BrachyBase," is situated at OSU, and helps scientists around the world make important advances for human nutrition and new energy sources.

Brachypodium is actually a wild annual grass plant, native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, with little agricultural importance and is of no major economic value itself. But it allows researchers to obtain genetic information for grasses much more easily than some of its related, but larger and more complex counterparts with much larger genomes plants which are hugely important in world nutrition.

"Some plants are a geneticist's nightmare," said Todd Mockler, a principal investigator on this project and assistant professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. "Wheat, for instance, is an important crop, but it has an enormous and complex genome five times larger than a human.

"Brachypodium is just the opposite of that," added Mockler, who is a member of OSU's Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing. "It has one of the smallest known genomes among grasses, it's easy to work with and it is physically small. We can grow 50,000 plants in a normal-sized laboratory and do larger experiments. The plants are easy to grow, easy to genetically manipulate, easy to study and have a short lifecycle.

"And what we learn from Brachypodium will be of critical value in work with other plants of agronomic importance."

A team of 12 OSU researchers led the transcriptome
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Contact: Todd Mockler
tmockler@cgrb.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5207
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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