Using a novel deep sequencing technology that can in one fell swoop decode 50 million sequences representing well over a billion bases of DNA, a research team led by University of Delaware scientists is working to unmask where, why and how certain genes are switched on or off in rice--a crop vital to the world's food supply.
The goal of the four-year project, which is supported by a $5.3-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to advance scientific understanding of the rice epigenome--the series of biochemical modifications of the rice DNA that can toggle a gene on or, conversely, silence it. Ultimately, the research may lead to the development of hardier strains of rice, as well as shed light on similar mechanisms at work in corn and other important cereal grains that are closely related to rice.
Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, is the principal investigator on the project, which also involves Guo-Liang Wang, a rice biologist from Ohio State University; Steven Jacobsen, an expert in epigenetics, and computer scientist Matteo Pellegrini, both from the University of California at Los Angeles; and Yulin Jia, a plant pathologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark.
The effort builds on Meyers' previous awards from the NSF Plant Genome Research Program, as well as ongoing investigations of small RNAs--short lengths of ribonucleic acids that act as gene regulators--performed in collaboration with Pamela Green, the Crawford H. Greenewalt Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular Biology at UD, whose lab is next door to Meyers' in the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. These projects have now propelled the research in a new direction, to new frontiers in the field of epigenetics.
Epigenetics refers to a heritable change that is not a result of a change in DNA sequence, but rather a chemical modification of nuc
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University of Delaware