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Spikemoss genome offers new paths for biofuels research -- bridges plant development gap
Date:5/6/2011

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. It's not quite Christmas, but the DNA sequence of a small plant that resembles the seasonal conifers is providing biofuels researchers with information that could influence the development of candidate biofuel feedstock plants and offering botanists long-awaited insights into plant evolution.

"When you burn coal, you're burning Selaginella's ancestors," said Purdue University botanist Jody Banks, who originally proposed that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) sequence the plant more commonly known as spikemoss as part of the DOE JGI's 2005 Community Sequencing Program.

Published online May 5 in Science Express, a team of researchers from over 60 institutions, that included DOE JGI's Dan Rokhsar and Igor Grigoriev, the senior authors of this work, reported the genome sequence of Selaginella moellendorffii and used a comparative genomics approach to identify the core genes that are likely to be present in a common ancestor to land plants.

Grigoriev noted that the Selaginella genome helps fill in a large gap in plant evolution from the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas, sequenced at the DOE JGI and published in 2007, to flowering plants with vascular systems. "Selaginella occupies a phylogenetically important position for which we had no reference," he said. "On one end of the spectrum we had mosses such as Physcomitrella" the first moss to have its genome sequenced and published by DOE JGI "and on the other are angiosperms such as grasses including Brachypodium," whose genome was published by DOE JGI last year.

Spikemoss stands tall like grasses, but because it diverged from flowering plants more than 400 million years ago, it doesn't have the roots and leaves like later plants. To help understand these relationships, the researchers compared the genome of Selaginella against those of Chlamydomonas, Physcomitrell
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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