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WUSTL researchers spearhead key genome initiative
Date:12/14/2007

450 million years ago, shortly after plants colonized land. "One can now do comparative genomics, say between a single-celled alga, a moss and a flowering vascular plant," Quatrano said.

"This enables us to look deep into the history of plants. Over the next five to 10 years, other plants that are part of a green tree of life will be sequenced, and we'll see how these genomes have evolved and what genomic changes are associated with major evolutionary transitions, such as the evolution of wood, seeds and flowers."

"The moss genome sequence is a major landmark in understanding how plants originated and evolved," said Robert E. Blankenship, Ph.D., the Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences and one of the paper's co-authors. "It provides us with a wealth of information as to how photosynthetic organisms made the difficult transition from aquatic environments to land. This information may be critical in the development of new bioenergy sources."

In addition to Blankenship, the paper's other WUSTL co-author is Susan K. Dutcher, Ph.D., professor of genetics and interim chair of the genetics department in the Washington University School of Medicine.

Dutcher's interest in the moss gene comes from her desire to understand cilia, tiny organelles that project from the surface of most human cells. She hopes that the Physcomitrella genome will be used to understand human health as well as to understand plant development.

"We have been interested for the last few years in the BBS genes (Bardet Biedl Syndrome)," said Dutcher. "Children with mutations in these genes develop kidney and eye disease as well as diabetes. Comparative genomics with Physcomitrella suggests that these genes are needed in cilia in people for sensing intracellular environment. As we continue to analyze the Physcomitrella genome by comparative genomics, we are likely to be able to find other interesting genes that impact human health."


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Contact: Ralph Quatrano
rsq@wustl.edu
314-935-6850
Washington University in St. Louis  
Source:Eurekalert

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