LARGEST SEGMENT OF PLANT DNA SEQUENCED TO DATE

C. S. Prakash prakash at tusk.edu
Tue Mar 10 22:23:54 EST 1998


Forwarding a commentary from ISB News Report (http://www.nbiap.vt.edu)
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LARGEST SEGMENT OF PLANT DNA SEQUENCED TO DATE

Ten years ago few people had heard of  Arabidopsis but now the
weed is a favorite of plant molecular biologists. With its compact
genome - at 120 million base pairs (Mb) it's only a tenth that of
many crop plants - petite size, and hurried life cycle,
Arabidopsis lends itself neatly to genome studies. It is easier to
identify and isolate genes from this model plant than genetically
more complex crop plants.

A significant piece of the Arabidopsis genome has now been
sequenced and analyzed, as reported by Michael Bevan and coworkers
in the journal Nature (1). The 1.9 Mb catalog (on the Internet at
http://www.mips.biochem.mpg.de/mips/athaliana/) provides 'a
tantalizing preview of the bricks and mortar needed to build a
plant' says Joseph Ecker of the University of Pennsylvania (2).

The mammoth effort of sequencing the largest contiguous plant DNA
so far involved 68 scientists from 21 institutions located in nine
countries spanning the Atlantic. Although this sequence is just a
small fraction of the total, it provides an intriguing glimpse
into the architecture of a higher plant genome. Among the 389
genes that are packed densely in the region, over half are already
known to be present in other organisms, while the function of 46%
of the genes is unknown. The study confirms an earlier prediction
that Arabidopsis has 21,000 protein-coding (active) genes.

The entire genome is expected to be sequenced through collective
international effort by the year 2004. This may be accomplished
even sooner because of a new funding initiative by the U.S.
Congress.

References
1. Bevan, M. et al., 1998. Analysis of 1.9 Mb of contiguous
sequence from chromosome 4 of Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature
391:485-488.

2. Ecker, J. E. 1998. Genes blossom from a weed. Nature 391:438-9.

C. S. Prakash
Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
Tuskegee University
prakash at tusk.edu

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