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Key root-development pathway mapped using advanced genomic technique

DURHAM, N.C. -- Biologists have vastly expanded understanding of the biological machinery controlling the intricate process by which plant roots burgeon from single cells into complex tissues. A Duke-led team's discovery of new components of the root-development pathway in the mustard plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, represents both a scientific and technical achievement, the scientists said.

Scientifically, Arabidopsis is a basic biological model for all flowering plants, so the finding offers insights into a critical function of all such plants, including crop plants, the researchers said. Further, since the root is a useful model for tissue development in general, basic findings regarding the root-development pathway could offer insights into how complex tissues are generated from immature cells, called stem cells.

Technically, the genomic analytical method they used also will offer biologists a highly useful approach to discovering the components of complex biological pathways governing development, the researchers said. Their statistical "meta-analysis" technique involved using computational methods to integrate data from multiple genetic analyses using several DNA microarrays -- popularly known as "gene chips." Each of these chips contained some 24,000 genes representing nearly the entire genome of the Arabidopsis plant.

The team's findings appeared May 2, 2006, in the online edition of the journal Public Library of Science Biology and will be published in the journal's May 2006 edition.

Philip Benfey, professor and chair of Duke University's Department of Biology and a member of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, is senior first author of the report. Joint first authors are Mitchell Levesque and Teva Vernoux, who performed the work in Benfey's laboratory.

The research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Before the latest work, Benfey and his colleague
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
3-May-2006


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