Clemson University Genomics Institute awarded $5.1 million by USDA and NSF

October 20, 1999

CLEMSON--The Clemson University Genomics Institute (CUGI) is leading one of two American teams in an international effort to identify all the genetic components of rice.

Funded by a $5.1 million three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation, the Clemson-led team will sequence and map segments of two chromosomes in rice.

Rice is the world's most important food crop, feeding half the human population. Rice also contains the smallest genetic base, called "genome," for monocots, so it can be used as a model to understand the genetic make-up of other grains, such as corn, wheat and barley. By comparison, the genome size of corn and humans is about seven times larger.

The goal of this international study is to discover each of the approximately 40,000 genes in rice and locate their position on each of the 12 chromosomes.

"With the information we learn by sequencing the rice genome, scientists will be able to identify the function of each gene," said Rod Wing, director of CUGI and project director of Clemson's rice genome sequencing consortium.

"The next step will be to use that knowledge to improve useful traits, such as higher yield or nutritional content, in rice and other grain crops," Wing said.

Other institutions in the Clemson-led consortium are the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Genome Center in New York, NY lead by W.R. McCombie, and the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center in St. Louis, MO, led by R. Wilson, both recognized leaders in genome sequencing research.

The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, MD, is the only other American team to receive funding for the rice project. Other countries participating in this international project are Japan, China, Korea, France, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Each group is investigating assigned segments of the rice genome.

To ensure that all the scientists have comparable reference points for the rice genome project, CUGI is mass-producing and distributing the raw DNA sequencing material, in the form of BAC libraries, for each group.

Funding for CUGI comes through Agriculture and Forestry Research at Clemson University.

Clemson University

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