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Arabidopsis Genomic Sequencing Project Announcement

Mike Cherry cherry at GENOME.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Oct 1 16:03:34 EST 1996


   Scientists will soon have access to the first complete genetic 
information of a flowering plant.  The Department of Energy (DOE), the 
National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Agriculture 
(USDA) have funded three groups of researchers to begin systematic, 
large-scale genome sequencing of a plant named Arabidopsis thaliana. 
The ultimate goal is to sequence the entire Arabidopsis genome at a 
rate of about 200 genes per month and to develop the first complete 
gene sequence of a higher plant.  The three-year awards total 
approximately $12 million.

   Arabidopsis thaliana is a small plant in the mustard family, and 
has the smallest genome and the highest gene density so far identified 
in a flowering plant.  "Decoding the DNA of this model plant will 
provide a complete catalog of all the genes involved in the life cycle 
of the typical plant, from seed to flower and fruit," says Martha 
Krebs, director of DOE's office of energy research. The Department of 
Energy is supporting the plant sequencing effort because the 
applications of the genetic information learned could be used to meet 
a number of  agency mission needs.  Potential applications include 
improved quality and quantity of biomass products such as alternative 
fuels and chemical feedstocks (which can conserve petroleum resources) 
and using plants to clean up contaminated soil (phytoremediation) at 
DOE's former nuclear weapons production sites.

   What scientists learn from the study of Arabidopsis genes will be 
immediately applicable to economically important plant species, 
according to Mary Clutter, NSF assistant director for biological 
sciences, and will lead to the creation of new and improved plants and 
plant-based products.  "Because plants are vital to our existence, 
increased understanding of the biology of plants will impact every 
facet of our lives, from agriculture, to energy, to the environment, 
to health," says Clutter.

   In 1990, the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome 
Research Project was launched by an international group of scientists 
who recognized the need for study of one plant with the basic 
properties of all plants.  "During the past several years, Arabidopsis 
has become established worldwide as the species of choice for 
molecular genetic studies of plant biology," says Clutter.

   Catherine Woteki, USDA acting undersecretary of agriculture for 
research, education, and economics adds, "Mapping the Arabidopsis 
genome will enable us to use biotechnology to develop a host of new 
plant varieties for agriculture and other purposes.  This research is 
like exploring a continent for the first time; each step leads on to 
several others, with tremendous possibilities.  We're going to see 
productive results for years to come."

   Although the three groups of researchers selected for the current 
research grants are supported by separate awards, each is part of a 
single project. "Their activities will be coordinated to maximize 
efficiency and usefulness." says Clutter, "and information from the 
project will be widely disseminated so that researchers will gain 
maximum benefits."  The U.S. effort is being dovetailed with other 
large-scale Arabidopsis genome sequencing projects in Europe and 
Japan.  The goal is to complete the sequence by the year 2004.  U.S. 
groups will contribute two-thirds of the sequence.

   The three groups of researchers are:

   *       The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville,     
   *       Consortium of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, 
           New York, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and 
           Applied Biosystems in Foster City, California
   *       Consortium of Stanford University, the University of        
           Pennsylvania, and the University of California at Berkeley

Jeff Sherwood (DOE), 202/586-5806          September 25, 1996
Cheryl Dybas (NSF), 703/306-1070
Len Carey (USDA),  202/720-1358

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