Sequencing technology helps determine how plant genes are organised
Researchers have used a new technique to understand what plant genomes really encode.
Scientists from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee have teamed up with researchers in the USA to use a new technique to sequence the genes of the plant Arabidopsis.
The approach, which allows researchers to see exactly where a plant’s genes end, could be applied to crops in the hope of boosting efforts to breed new varieties.
Dr Gordon Simpson at the James Hutton Institute said: “Until now, people have sequenced RNA by first converting it back into DNA. They chop it up, add on special molecules and then because there is not enough, they copy the bits again and again, before finally sequencing.
“The trouble is that all these steps introduce bias and error. What’s special about what we have done is we have avoided all these steps and sequenced the RNA directly”.
This technique allows scientists to see exactly where genes end with unprecedented certainty.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly it helps us find individual genes within genomes and so work out what they do. Second, it tells us something about how cells are behaving.
As well as enabling scientists to understand what genomes actually encode and how active genes are, direct RNA sequencing could be especially useful for situations where only a few cells are available, for example when working with patient samples.
The Dundee team now plan to use their expertise to understand what other genomes encode and how that changes in disease. In this way, they can help deliver greater accuracy in rational crop improvement.