Arabidopsis thaliana is one of the most favoured model systems for the study of many aspects of plant metabolism, development and disease resistance. Although Arabidopsis is of no economic importance itself, understanding basic developmental processes in this plant will facilitate the manipulation and improvement of crops which are vital to European agriculture. The reason for this stems from the fact that all higher plants are closely related. Arabidopsis genes will have similar or identical functions to those found in crops. Hence, by studying a simply organized model, rapid progress can be made in the gene cloning and functional characterization of genes which can improve crop productivity.
The physical organization of the Arabidopsis genome is being analysed through the construction of a physical map and the concomitant sequencing of genomic DNA and cDNAs, funded through the EC ESSA Programme. This will facilitate the identification and physical localization of many genes. A complementary approach to identifying genes of agronomic importance, involves the use of mutants. Mutants can be generated by many different means, including chemical or irradiation mutagenesis and insertion of T-DNA or transposons, into coding or promoter regions. Mutants can be used to dissect metabolic and developmental pathways, as well as analyse gene interaction. Arabidopsis has a haploid genome size of approximately lOOMb and contains approximately 20,000 genes. There are currently approximately 10,000 mutagenized lines available for research but to achieve saturation mutagenesis at least 100,000 mutants need to be generated. In the last few years new methodologies have been developed which allow large populations of mutagenized lines to be generated where the mutation is tagged through the presence of a deletion, T-DNA insert, or transposon. Screening of these mutagenized populations is likely to yield an understanding of additional novel genes which may be important to crop improvement. Synteny between this model plant and other crop species can be exploited to allow agronomically important traits to be isolated in the crop itself. In addition deletion mutations and mapped T-DNA or transposon inserts also have potential advantages as mapping tools.
The Nottingham Arabidopsis Stock Centre (NASC) was established in 1991 to underpin the European Arabidopsis research efforts. NASC currently maintains and distributes 8,000 accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana. NASC has 544 European registered users from 26 countries. In the last year NASC received 4,000 orders and distributed 14,000 tubes of seed to European scientists. However, NASC cannot currently support the demands of the research community. Valuable lines are being generated through research programmes which are not being made quickly available to the community due to lack of resources to bulk and distribute these lines, thus slowing the advancement of the Arabidopsis Programme as a whole.
This project aims to maximise the availability of key biotechnological resources (TDNA, transposon and deletion lines) for the European community by having the scientific developer of these lines bulk them ready for direct Distribution through NASC. These biotechnological resources have been targeted as being the most useful for identifying new genes with the potential to improve agronomically important traits in crops and to aid the Arabidopsis mapping programme. 20,000 novel lines will be produced as part of this programme. NASC, the core distribution centre for Arabidopsis stocks and information in Europe, will be responsible for administering the distribution of the lines. This will optimise the access of these lines and the information associated with them to interested European Laboratories.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
6700 AA Wageningen