25 October 2001
Mutant cress is key to plant DNA

By Tom Allen-Stevens

THE future of crop biotechnology could hinge on the humble cress plant, reports the Daily Telegraph.

A German company is planning to genetically modify 100,000 versions of the plant in order to unlock the secrets of the plant genome.

“Our goal is to investigate the function of all 25,000 genes in plants,” said Dr Arno Krotzky, managing director of Berlin-based Metanomics.

Each one of these genes will be manipulated to see what effect it has on the plant and to identify what role the gene plays, building up a map of the plant genome.

Scientists hope this will help them discover ways of using plant biology to improve peoples diets and alleviate modern problems such as stress.

Thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana is known as the “domestic pet” of plant biotechnology.

Its use is favoured by scientists because of its small size, rapid life cycle, small simple genome and prolific seed production.

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