Endless research possibilities for remarkable native plant

Jul 31, 2012
Peter Waterhouse at Eagle Rock, Western Australia, where the Nicotiana benthamiana plant grows.

(Medical Xpress) -- The exceptional research potential of a native Australian plant has been accelerated by the release of both its DNA and RNA sequence by University of Sydney researchers and their partners.

Nicotiana benthamiana is a distant relative of commercial tobacco and is only found in remote areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

"This plant is already used in research laboratories around the world by biologists and biotechnologists but just as determining the sequence of the has been an incalculable aid to medical research, providing this will be a major help to agricultural and particularly biotechnological research," said Professor Peter Waterhouse from the School of , who leads the University's researchers.

"Having the RNA in addition to the DNA information will give researchers extra options and approaches to designing their genetic experiments. This achievement will speed up the development of new crops required for food, fibres, biofuels and personalised medicines."

The release of the sequence is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of Sydney, CSIRO Plant Industry and New Zealand's Plant and .

Nicotiana benthamiana has been embraced by the scientific community for its ease of use as a just as the mouse has been used to study humans.

Finding out what each gene in a plant produces is a key step in . "We used to wait six months for this type of information but using the unique properties of 'benth', as we sometimes call it, we can have results in less than a week," said Professor Waterhouse.

"You can simply squirt genetic material into a leaf and have it produce your target product in a matter of days. Our results will make this process even faster and more accurate."

A new University of Sydney website has been launched in collaboration with the partner organizations which provides the genome sequence and a wealth of other material on the plant.

"At this stage benth is a much exploited but little understood plant and this resource will change that completely," said Dr. Craig Wood, a co-investigator from the CSIRO Plant Industry.

Plant genomics is still frontier territory and we have pushed the boundaries with this project," said Dr. Roger Hellens, from New Zealand's Plant and Food Research.

"This plant has increased the speed at which we can investigate the molecular controls of important horticultural traits. It allows us to identify genes involved in pest and disease resistance, the metabolic pathways that produce compounds known to be good for human health, or to understand how a plant develops. We can use this knowledge to identify the corresponding genes in horticultural plants of interest and develop molecular markers to speed up the breeding of new varieties with these traits."

Explore further: Different watering regimes boost crop yields

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Midget plant gets makeover

Jun 22, 2009

A tiny plant with a long name (Arabidopsis thaliana) helps researchers from over 120 countries learn how to design new crops to help meet increasing demands for food, biofuels, industrial materials, and ne ...

A new approach to molecular plant breeding

Apr 18, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist has shown researchers and plant breeders a better way to handle the massive amounts of data being generated by plant molecular studies, using ...

Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage

Jun 19, 2008

The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such ...

Little plant has big stories to tell

Aug 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Understanding which genes control traits, like when a plant will flower, what soil type is best or its ability to persist in drought conditions provides insight into the ability of plants ...

Recommended for you

Turning winery waste into biofuels

1 hour ago

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology have developed a technique for converting winery waste into compounds that could have potential value as biofuels or medicines.

Project launched to study evolutionary history of fungi

18 hours ago

The University of California, Riverside is one of 11 collaborating institutions that have been funded a total of $2.5 million by the National Science Foundation for a project focused on studying zygomycetes – ancient li ...

Different watering regimes boost crop yields

22 hours ago

Watering tomato plants less frequently could improve yields in saline conditions, according to a study of the impact of water and soil salinity on vegetable crops.

User comments : 0