14 December 2000
Gene scientists find plant’s clock

By FWi staff

SCIENTISTS have mapped the genetic blueprint of a plant for the first time, revolutionising the way plants are understood.

Among other discoveries, they have identified a gene that controls flowering time.

The first whole genetic sequence of a flowering plant was compiled by scientists around the world and is published in the journal Nature.

This breakthrough in understanding how plants work gives biologists and plant breeders opportunities to make plants easier to grow and healthier to eat.

The sequenced plant, thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, is a weedy relative of the mustard and cabbage plant families.

But the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council says this “road map” can be used to understand genes in more complex plants.

The BBSRC, a leading funding agency for bioscience research at UK, has invested 90 million in research into Arabidopsis in the last 10 years.

Using the projects findings researchers at the John Innes Centre have identified a gene that controls flowering time in Arabidopsis.

Isolating this allows plant breeders to develop winter and spring varieties of crops, depending on whether they need a cold period to stimulate them to flower.

Horticulture Research International is using the gene sequence to identify natural disease-resistant genes lost from related members of the cabbage family through selective breeding.

By identifying the genes in Arabidopsis, it may be possible to restore natural resistance to diseases, reducing reliance on chemical controls, says the BBSRC.