Think of how superior a map showing roads, terrain, rivers, and cities
is to one showing just a featureless land mass. That's the thought behind
the research of ARS computational
biologist Doreen Ware and colleagues working with genome maps of rice,
maize, and sorghum.
"Rice is the first crop whose genome has been almost completely
sequenced," says Ware, who is with ARS's Ithaca, New York-based
U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory. "But it'll be at least
3 to 4 years before comparably detailed, sequence-based maps are available
for maize and sorghum, two important cereal crops in the same family
as rice. That's because of the cereal genomes' large size and complexity."
And that's why Ware, using genome maps and data already in the public
domain, is probing rice's genome sequence to fill in as many details
as possible about maize and sorghum. Genomes are complete sets of organisms'
"We're enhancing known information so that points of similarity
between the genomes of each crop are highlighted," she says. "We're
focusing on the genomes' infrastructure."
Ware is based on Long Island, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,
a private, nonprofit institution focusing on cancer, neurobiology, plant
genetics, and bioinformatics that allows her access to cutting-edge
genomics expertise and equipment.
"Young Investigators" Award Helps
Ware has received a $1.3-million "Young Investigators" award
from the National Science Foundation for this study. The foundation
is an independent federal agency supporting fundamental research and
education across all fields of science and engineering. Ware's grant
runs through 2008.
"This work will add to our understanding of genome organization
and the evolutionary relationship between three agronomically important
crops," says Ware. "It will also develop methods for building
and finishing comparative maps that can both be applied to future genome-scale
projects and help identify genes involved in traits important to agriculture."
Ware says the public data she's using "will give information for
locating specific genes. I'll be able to explore whether genes are in
the same or different locations on the genomes of the three crops. The
genes' position may yield clues toward understanding how crop genomes
Understanding evolutionary changes is important, Ware adds, because
familiarity with ancestral genomes allows scientists to look at the
genetic makeup of current crops and make best guesses as to which genes
are likely to perform the same functions.
"Ultimately, this project will help scientists and growers identify
genes responsible for traits that will lead to stronger, more nutritious
crops," says Ware, who is being assisted by researchers at Texas
A&M University, the University of Missouri, and Purdue University.
Ware plans to develop a pilot high school curriculum based on her work.By
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Plant, Microbial, and Insect Genetic Resources,
Genomics, and Genetic Improvement, an ARS National Program (#301) described
on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
Doreen H. Ware is with
the U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Research Center, Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1 Bungtown Rd., Cold Spring Harbor, NY
11724; phone (516) 367-6979, fax (516) 367-8389.
"Rice Genome Helps Put Other Cereals On the Map"
was published in the October
2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.