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First Comprehensive Library of Master Genetic Switches in Plants
Date:7/17/2014

ty all over the world," said Kay, who researches circadian rhythms, or the biological clock, in plants.

Jose L. Pruneda-Paz, co-first author on the paper, explained that the collection will "ultimately, help us understand at the molecular level the mechanisms of how plants work." Pruneda-Paz helped  create the library as a postdoctoral researcher, first in Kay's laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, then at the University of California, San Diego, where he is now a faculty member.

Kay elaborated: "Along the way we are going to understand the wiring — the instruction manual — for how plants grow and develop. From that knowledge base comes all the translational opportunities."

The clones in the library were taken from Arabidopsis, a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard.

"You can think of Arabidopsis as the mouse of the botanical world," Kay said. "In the same way we learn a great deal about human biology from flies and mice, we learn a huge amount about clock biology because Arabidopsis is a great plant to grow in the lab."

Pruneda-Paz and Ghislain Breton, another former postdoctoral researcher in Kay's lab and co-first author of the study, recount what first led to the idea of creating a library in 2006.

The scientists were attempting to understand how plants adapt to cycles of light and dark, and zeroed in on the production of CCA1 and LHY, transcription factors that regulate Arabidopsis clock genes. Traditionally, researchers decipher the function of a gene by mutating the gene and seeing whether those mutations are responsible for a certain phenotype.

But when this method didn't work, the researchers decided to "use this reverse genetics approach," Pruneda-Paz explained. "Rather than trying to do a mutation to find a gene, we could clone all the tr
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