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UC Riverside geneticists to study how plants adapt to a changing environment
Date:3/23/2011

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Transposable elements (TEs) DNA sequences that move from one location in the genome to another are abundant in plants and animals, evolve rapidly and promote the evolution of the genome. What role they play in how plants generate the diversity needed to adapt to a changing climate is the focus of a study at the University of California, Riverside being funded by a nearly $4.8 million five-year National Science Foundation grant.

Susan R. Wessler, the principal investigator on the grant and a distinguished professor of genetics, and Jason Stajich, a co-principal investigator and an assistant professor of plant pathology and microbiology, will focus their attention on the rice plant, which serves as an excellent model due to its small and fully sequenced genome that can be easily transformed with foreign DNA.

"We will attempt to understand the impact of a rapidly amplifying TE one that is increasing the number of its copies at a high rate on generating diversity in rice," Wessler said. "We will analyze how mPing, the high copy TE, rapidly diversifies the genome of rice, a largely self-pollinating organism, and, in doing so, alters rice's ability to respond to a changing environment. By doing so, we will document for the first time the global impact of a TE burst in any organism."

Wessler explained that rice, which has one of the most stable genomes and is the most important source of calories for humans globally, is paradoxically host to the most active TE characterized in any eukaryote.

"This fortunate set of circumstances will allow us to sequence rice cultivars related to each other and also do a survey of global changes in gene expression, associated with responses to stresses like drought, floods and disease, across th
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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