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International research team announces finished rice genome

Rockville, MD--Every year, the world consumes over 880 billion pounds of rice, which feeds half the population. Those tiny grains add up. So maybe it's no surprise that this important food crop turns out to have more genes than humans.

It's certainly not to researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), who have been sequencing the first food crop genome as part of an international consortium for the last six years. The completed sequence, published in the August 11 issue of Nature, unveils a genome consisting of roughly 400 million DNA bases holding 37,544 genes on rice's 12 chromosomes.

"Rice is a critically important crop, and this finished sequence represents a major milestone," said Robin Buell, lead investigator for TIGR's portion of the project. "We know the scientific community can use these data to develop new varieties of rice that deliver increased yields and grow in harsher conditions."

Over the next 20 years, world rice production must increase by a projected 30% to feed the earth's growing population. This finished sequence will provide an indispensable roadmap to agricultural researchers using both biotechnology and conventional breeding to develop hardier rice varieties. The genetic map will greatly speed their hunt for genes that increase yield, protect against disease and pests, or provide drought-resistance in rice and other cereal crops. Rice is genetically similar to maize, wheat, barley, rye, sorghum, and sugarcane.

"Rice is the Rosetta Stone for crop genomes," Buell says. "We can use the rice genome as a base for genomic studies of cereals." She adds that rice has a considerably smaller genome than maize and wheat, making it a better candidate for sequencing. Luckily, though, the rice genome is largely co-linear with other cereal genomes. In other words, similar genes in the other plant species should pop up in roughly the same spots as their rice counterparts. With the finished seque
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Contact: Kathryn Brown
kbrown@endpointcreative.biz
703-549-6641
The Institute for Genomic Research
10-Aug-2005


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