MSU researchers receive $4 million grant to uncover gene functions

September 27, 2005

EAST LANSING, Mich. þu A collaboration of Michigan State University researchers will use a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to uncover the functions of genes in a plant ¨C research which may ultimately lead to improvements in human health and agriculture.

In a collaborative effort spanning several departments, MSU scientists will determine the functions of roughly 4,400 nuclear genes from the Arabidopsis plant. Arabidopsis is a flowering plant whose entire 29,000 gene sequence is known.

Scientists will focus on the genes which encode the chloroplast-targeted proteins that trigger photosynthesis. Understanding how these genes operate could yield significant breakthroughs in biotechnology and genomics worldwide, resulting in advances in human health and agriculture.

The chloroplast gives green plants their color and carries out photosynthesis and produces oxygen. It can be thought of as the world's life-support system. It is an attractive target for biotechnology because it produces many different molecules important to agriculture and human health, such as vegetable oils, starch for ethanol-based fuels, vitamin E and amino acids. Despite the many functions of a chloroplast, the MSU team estimates that it takes only around 4,000 genes to make a functional chloroplast, which is similar to a simple bacterium, rather than the tens of thousands of genes required to make a whole plant.

"If we completely understand the chloroplast, it should then be possible to engineer plants to be more productive harvesters of the sun's energy into biomass to decrease dependence on oil," said Robert Last, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and plant biology at MSU. "We also will be able to more efficiently make nutrients important to human health. These include vitamins and heart-healthy oils."

The NSF's Arabidopsis 2010 project is a worldwide effort to catalogue the function of every gene in the plant ¨C something never before accomplished with any plant or animal.

The $4 million grant begins Dec. 1 and will continue for four years. The project will create eight full-time jobs for technicians, graduate students, post-doctoral students and fellowships. An additional 10 positions will be created for undergraduate students enabling them to receive valuable research experience.

"MSU plant scientists have been in the vanguard in using Arabidopsis as the best-understood plant model," said George Leroi, dean of the MSU College of Natural Science. "Importantly, the project will provide opportunities for MSU undergraduates, graduate students and visiting researchers to become educated in modern genomic and bioinformatic techniques that will be widely applicable in the future."

This functional genomics research is a collaborative effort spanning several departments in the College of Natural Science, including the departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Plant Biology, Physics and the MSU-DOE Plant Research Lab.

Last is the project's principal investigator. Co-investigators, all MSU faculty, are Christoph Benning, Dean DellaPenna, Ken Nadler, John Ohlrogge, Katherine Osteryoung, Yair Shachar-Hill, Andreas Weber, Bill Wedemeyer and Curt Wilkerson.
-end-


Michigan State University

Related Biotechnology Articles from Brightsurf:

Cyanobacteria as "green" catalysts in biotechnology
Researchers from TU Graz and Ruhr University Bochum show in the journal ACS Catalysis how the catalytic activity of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can be significantly increased.

Biotechnology to the rescue of Brussels sprouts
An international team has identified the genes that make these plants resistant to the pathogen that attacks crops belonging to the cabbage family all over the world.

UM professor co-authors report on the use of biotechnology in forests
University of Montana Professor Diana Six is one of 12 authors of a new report that addresses the potential for biotechnology to provide solutions for protecting forest trees from insect and pathogen outbreaks, which are increasing because of climate change and expanded global trade.

Faster genome evolution methods to transform yeast for industrial biotechnology
A research team led by Prof. DAI Junbiao at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof.

New innovations in cell-free biotechnology
Professor Michael Jewett's new platform to conduct cell-free protein synthesis could lead to improved quality of manufactured protein therapeutics and biomaterials.

Silk 'micrococoons' could be used in biotechnology and medicine
Microscopic versions of the cocoons spun by silkworms have been manufactured by a team of researchers.

The end of biotechnology as we know it
More than 400 attendees from five continents discussed trends and improvements in biotechnology at the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (ESIB) in Graz/Austria and talked many topics like a dehumanized research process.

Biotechnology: A growing field in the developing world
A detailed new report surveys a broad cross-section of biotechnology work across developing countries, revealing steady growth in fields tied to human well-being worldwide.

China releases first report on biotechnology in developing countries
The first report on biotechnology in developing countries revealing an overall picture of their biotechnology growth and competitiveness was released on Nov.

Exclusive: Biotechnology leaders surveyed about impact of Trump presidency
The day following the election of Donald J. Trump as President, a survey of leaders in biotechnology in the United States, conducted by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News showed that Trump's presidency will negatively impact NIH research funding as well as STEM education; a plurality said it will also spark a 'brain drain' as foreign-born researchers educated in American universities will be more likely to leave.

Read More: Biotechnology News and Biotechnology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.