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Going with the grain: A tale of rice's smallest chromosome

ARLINGTON, Va.Behold a grain of rice. Inside are thousands of cells; within each cell are 12 chromosomes; and on rice's smallest chromosome, No. 10, are about 3,500 genes and more than 22 million base pairs, the links in the chain of DNA.

So, what's the big deal about rice's smallest chromosome?

There are several, according to a report in the June 6 issue of the journal Science. Upon close examination, chromosome 10 has about twice as many genes as were predicted when an international consortium announced draft genome sequence in the same journal last December. An organism's genome consists of the entire genetic code held in its DNA.

Of potentially greater significance, a detailed look at chromosome 10 shows that the genome map of rice is similar to other grains, particularly sorghum and maize.

The project, led by Rod A. Wing of the University of Arizona and C. Robin Buell of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy. A portion of chromosome 10 was also sequenced by the Plant Genome Initiative at Rutgers.

The work demonstrates the value of pursuing the full sequence in detail, said Judith Plesset, a program director in NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences, which supported the project. "One of the lessons here is, 'Don't think you know everything simply because you've done the draft,'" she said.

According to TIGR's Buell, getting from the draft to the finished version is painstaking and costly because the process "is not automated to any large extent" and it requires considerable lab work by an extended team of research associates.

The resulting view, however, is immensely clearer. "Like looking at the cosmos through a regular telescope, and then looking at it through the Hubble telescope," Buell said.

Focusing on rice matters because, according to the repor
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Contact: Sean Kearns
skearns@nsf.gov
703-292-7963
National Science Foundation
5-Jun-2003


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