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Scientists take a giant step for people -- with plants!
Date:7/29/2011

Science usually progresses in small steps, but on rare occasions, a new combination of research expertise and cutting-edge technology produces a 'great leap forward.' An international team of scientists, whose senior investigators include Salk Institute plant biologist Joseph Ecker, report one such leap in the July 29, 2011 issue of Science. They describe their mapping and early analyses of thousands of protein-to-protein interactions within the cells of Arabidopsis thaliana -a variety of mustard plant that is to plant biology what the lab mouse is to human biology.

"With this one study we managed to double the plant protein-interaction data that are available to scientists," says Ecker, a professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. "These data along with data from future 'interactome' mapping studies like this one should enable biologists to make agricultural plants more resistant to drought and diseases, more nutritious, and generally more useful to mankind."

The four-year project was funded by an $8 million National Science Foundation grant, and was headed by Marc Vidal, Pascal Braun, David Hill and colleagues at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; and Ecker at the Salk Institute. "It was a natural collaboration," says Vidal, "because Joe and his colleagues at the Salk Institute had already sequenced the Arabidopsis genome and had cloned many of the protein-coding genes, whereas on our side at the Dana Farber Institute we had experience in making these protein interaction maps for other organisms such as yeast."

In the initial stages of the project, members of Ecker's lab led by research technician Mary Galli converted most of their accumulated library of Arabidopsis protein-coding gene clones into a form useful for protein-interaction tests. "For this project, over 10,000 'open reading frame' clones were converted and sequence verified in preparation for protein-interaction
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Contact: Andy Hoang
ahoang@salk.edu
619-861-5811
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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