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Researchers look to relatives for clues in quest to develop sources of bioenergy
Date:5/14/2012

ST. LOUIS, MO, May 14, 2012Arranging DNA fragments into a genome sequence that scientists can interpret is a challenge often compared to assembling a puzzle except you don't have the box and have no idea what the picture is supposed to be. Sometimes clues from other publicly-available DNA sequences of related organisms can be used to guide the assembly process, but its usefulness depends on how closely related any two sequences are to one another. For example, a reference genome might be so distantly related from the one being assembled, it would be akin to comparing a Model-T to a contemporary hybrid car.

For researchers interested in switchgrass, a perennial grass that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is investigating as a prospective biofuels feedstock, assembling the plant genome poses an even more complicated puzzle than usual because it has multiple copies of its chromosomes. The genome of a close switchgrass relative, foxtail millet (Setaria italica), is described in the May 13, 2012 edition of Nature Biotechnology "Reference genome sequence of the model plant Setaria".

For Dr. Tom Brutnell, a co-author on the study and director of the Enterprise Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Center, the Setaria genome is the starting point for his own research interests. "Now that we have the genome sequence, we can kick start the development of genetic tools for Setaria." His proposal under the DOE JGI's 2012 Community Sequencing Program builds off the availability of two Setaria genomes, that of foxtail millet and its wild ancestor green foxtail (S. viridis), which is also described in the paper. "What we really want is an Arabidopsis for the Panicoid grasses," he said, referring to the ubiquitous model plant used by many researchers. "Green foxtail is smaller than foxtail milletwe can get it to flower when it's just six inches tall and you go from seed to seed
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Contact: Melanie Bernds
mbernds@danforthcenter.org
314-587-1647
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Source:Eurekalert

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