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Understanding how weeds are resistant to herbicides
Date:8/5/2009

URBANA - In a little over seven hours, University of Illinois weed scientist Patrick Tranel got more genetic information about waterhemp than in two years time in a lab. The genetic information was obtained using pyrosequencing technology in the Keck Center at the U of I. The genetic sequence will allow scientists to study herbicide resistance in waterhemp.

Ten years ago genomics was reserved for what Tranel refers to as "important species" such as humans, cows, fruit flies, and mice. "That's changed now that those species have been sequenced. Now we can start doing genomics on weeds to start understanding weeds better.

"With this type of technology, you can generate all of this genomic data relatively cheaply and quickly, so it's worthwhile doing in some of these non-model species like weeds. We're able to start generating data now that five years ago would have been cost-prohibitive." Tranel believes waterhemp is the first weed to be partially sequenced using this technology.

The pyrosequencing machine emits a light signal that's captured every time a nucleotide is incorporated into a growing DNA strand. "The reason it's so fast is that it's done in parallel," said Tranel. "The plate has thousands of tiny wells, and a sequencing reaction going on in every one of them simultaneously. There's a camera that monitors the light for each of these wells simultaneously and so in one seven and a half hour run you generate a million reads."

Tranel explained that although more traditional herbicide resistance research takes years, it's more gene-specific. "We sampled plants, brought them back to the green house, grew them up, confirmed that they were resistant and then we started crossing a resistant plant with a sensitive plant. We look at its progeny to see if the resistance is inherited to understand the genetics if it's a dominant trait or a recessive trait.

"Pyrosequencing is more like just throwing out a fishing net -- w
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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