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Scientists develop method to find genetic basis for plant variation

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A new research approach that allowed scientists to rapidly identify the gene responsible for high sodium levels in certain naturally occurring plant populations could have applications for the study of a wide variety of other important plant properties.

The approach, a combination of new and existing technologies, may offer researchers a tool to pinpoint genetic differences many times faster than currently possible and help shed light on the likely origin of such differences.

"We've combined a variety of techniques to get at the gene behind a specific trait," said David Salt, a horticulture professor at Purdue University. "If picked up broadly, the approach could have an important impact on the activities of other laboratories."

The method allowed Salt's research team to determine differences within a single gene that drives a specific trait among naturally occurring plant populations -- a finding that can take years with current methods, he said.

Salt's method combines the new technology of DNA microarrays with information from a large genetic database in order to sidestep the lengthy processes previously used to identify similar genetic variations. Salt employed his methodology to identify a sodium-regulating gene in the extensively studied Arabidopsis thaliana, a wild mustard plant.

Salt said this approach could allow scientists to better understand the genetic basis of naturally occurring variations. These variations occur in the manifestation of tangible traits, or phenotypes, within a single species. Phenotypic differences can include anything from flower color to cold sensitivity or sodium concentration. This ubiquitous tendency of individuals and populations to vary is termed natural variation. Evolutionary theory proposes that differences among populations can arise for evolutionarily favorable, or adaptive, reasons. If the differences between populations become great enough, th
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Contact: David Salt
dsalt@purdue.edu
765-496-2112
Purdue University
21-Dec-2006


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