Scientists will find improved ways of studying the structure, function and evolution of the genomes of economically important plants, thanks to $14 million in new awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Resources to be developed include genomic sequences, genetic markers, maps and expressed sequence collections. These are much-needed tools for researchers working in areas as diverse as genome evolution and plant breeding.
Awardees will address scientific questions including the role of polyploidy in genome evolution, the genomic basis of speciation, and the relationships between cultivated plants and their weedy relatives.
"If the Plant Genome Research Program has been making the bricks that build a conceptual framework for the genomes of economically important crop plants, these projects will provide the mortar," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "The impact of genomics in evolutionary, ecological and population studies of crop plants will be far-reaching."
Many crop plants have large, complex genomes that in some cases are "polyploid" - containing multiple genomes. Polyploidy is widespread in plants and animals, and can lead to dramatic changes in gene content and genome organization that are only just beginning to be understood.
A project led by researchers at Iowa State University will develop sequence and map resources to study polyploidy in cotton, while researchers at the University of Missouri will look at the impact of polyploidy on plant form in Brassica species, which includes plants such as canola and Brussels sprouts. Other projects at the University of Georgia and the University of Arizona will develop sequence resources to study genome organization in wheat and rice.
The outcomes from these projects will allow researchers to understand how extra copies of genes function in these plants, and how genomes from different sources can work together in
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation