New Technique Allows Scientists to Quickly Isolate Genes of Interest in Crop Species

A research team has developed a new tool, called MutChromSeq, for isolating and identifying genes of interest in plants. MutChromSeq can be used to find interesting mutant genes in crop species, allowing plant breeders to develop more resilient or nutritious crops. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Genome Biology.

Wheat, barley, and other important crops can be improved through specialized breeding and genetic modification. Some of these crops, such as rice, have small genomes that are easy to sequence. Wheat and barley, however, have large, complex genomes. This makes it difficult to produce new versions of these crops since scientists have to spend a long time looking for mutant genes. If there was an easier way of sequencing these plants, plant breeders could develop wheat and barley crops that are more resistant to climate change, disease, and drought.

Researchers from the John Innes Centre in Norwich developed a technique called MutChromSeq. It works by filtering out genes on all chromosomes besides the chromosome of interest. This is called chromosome flow sorting and it allows scientists to focus their attention on a specific chromosome, speeding up the entire search. MutChromSeq also utilizes classic mutagenesis. A mutant plant with an interesting gene is compared to a normal one and identical genes are eliminated. This can help researchers pinpoint the location of a new gene without knowing anything about its structure ahead of time. Analyzing plant genomes with MutChromSeq can expedite the process of isolating a mutant gene.

MutChromSeq is a great improvement over current methods of gene isolation. Scientists can now quickly determine where a gene is and can limit their search to a particular chromosome. This is especially useful for crop species with large genomes, such as wheat and barley. The study’s authors believe that their findings could lead to the development of crops that better resist poor environmental conditions, including increased temperatures and drought due to climate change.

REFERENCE

Sánchez-Martín et al. Rapid gene isolation in barley and wheat by mutant chromosome sequencing. Genome Biology (2016).

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