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Sequencing Technology Could Help Crop Improvement

24 July 2012
BBSRC

UK - Scientists from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee have teamed up with researchers in the USA to use a new technique to sequence the genes of the plant Arabidopsis. This approach, which allows researchers to see exactly where a plant's genes end, could be applied to crops in the hope of boosting efforts to breed new varieties.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded team are the first in the world to try to understand how plant genes are organised by directly sequencing a molecule called RNA rather than DNA. Their findings are published today in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The research involved collaboration between a team of biologists led by Dr Gordon Simpson of The James Hutton Institute and Dundee University, computational scientists led by Prof Geoff Barton at Dundee University and a technology group from Helicos Biosciences in the USA.

Dr Simpson explains "Many genes work by coding for proteins, but the path from DNA to protein goes via an intermediate molecule called RNA. By sequencing the RNA you can see exactly which bits of the genome make proteins and what genes are turned on in different cells and at particular times.

The Dundee team now plan to use their expertise to understand what other genomes encode and how that changes in disease. In this way, they can help deliver greater accuracy in rational crop improvement.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC, said "This is a great example of how mastering new techniques and embracing new ways of working can deliver valuable insights into biology. It will be interesting to see where this team directs their expertise next."

TheCropSite News Desk



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