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Major Plant Genome Research Project Grants Renewed

First Complete Genome Sequence Of A Plant To Result

Scientists will soon have access to the first complete genome sequence of a flowering plant. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), have funded two groups of researchers through renewal grants to continue systematic large-scale genome sequencing of the plant named Arabidopsis thaliana. The ultimate goal is to sequence the entire Arabidopsis genome and to determine the structure and function of every gene in this model plant. The combined three-year awards total $28.3 million.

Arabidopsis thaliana is a small plant in the mustard family, and has the smallest genome and the highest gene density so far identified in a flowering plant. What scientists learn from the study of Arabidopsis will be immediately applicable to economically important plant species, according to Mary Clutter, NSF assistant director for biological sciences, and will lead to the creation of new and improved plants and plant-based products.

"Because plants are vital to our existence, increased understanding of the biology of plants will impact every facet of our lives, from agriculture, to energy, to the environment, to health," says Clutter.

In 1990, the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project was launched by an international group of scientists who recognized the need to examine in detail one simple plant with basic features common to all plants. "During the past several years, Arabidopsis has become established worldwide as the species of choice for molecular genetic studies of plant biology," says Clutter.

Martha Krebs, director of DOE's office of energy research, notes that Arabidopsis genome efforts have provided numerous scientific insights, as well as potential commercial products of intere
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-306-1070
National Science Foundation
7-Oct-1998


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