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Genetic map of important tree genes outlined

CORVALLIS, Ore. Researchers in Sweden and the United States have publicly released a new database of many of the most important genes in a tree genome. This collection of genes, which includes a large proportion of those expressed during tree growth, is among the best for any plant species.

"This is an important fundamental step towards doing the type of genetic and biotechnology research with trees that we've been able to do with only the most scientifically well-known plants," said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University.

Strauss is one of the co-authors on a paper that was just published on this advance in a professional journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There's still an enormous amount we don't know about the genetic function of trees at the most basic levels," Strauss said. "But advances such as this will narrow the gap between the scientific research we can undertake with trees and the studies that are possible with traditional model plant species, such as rice, corn, and Arabidopsis - a tiny plant in the mustard family that is the lab rat for all plants."

The database just announced, which was produced by a research group in Sweden with collaboration by researchers at OSU, describes about 102,000 sequences of the most commonly expressed genes in the genus "Populus," which includes cottonwoods and aspens. In living organisms, the genes which are "expressed" are only a fraction of the total DNA in cells. But they are most important to determining an animal or plant's function in the case of a tree, forming its bark, leaves, roots and wood, and enabling it to respond to environmental stresses.

The study also compared many of these gene sequences to those found in Arabidopsis, and found that nearly all the genes were functionally common between the two, even though they have been separated by about 100 million years of evolution and look completely different. Arabidopsis is th
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Contact: Steven Strauss
steve.strauss@orst.edu
541-737-6578
Oregon State University
6-Sep-2004


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