Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Poplar DNA code cracked - a step in combating global warming?

22.09.2004


Forests cover 30% of the world’s land area, house two thirds of life on earth, and are responsible for 90% of the biomass on dry land. So, the impact of trees on our daily life is enormous. Now, an international consortium − which includes researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at Ghent University − has succeeded in deciphering the first tree genome, that of the poplar. Gaining knowledge of the poplar DNA is an important step in the research into ‘tree-specific genes’, which can be used to make trees even better air purifiers, to have them grow more quickly, or to make them easier to process into paper.



The poplar as model organism

One can hardly overstate the importance of trees as providers of clean air and energy, or as raw material for furniture, building materials, and other implements. A great many properties found in trees are not found in other plants − like their abilities to provide large quantities of wood, to synchronize their growth with the seasons, and to adapt themselves to changing environmental conditions. They have these vital properties, because they must be able to survive for many years in the same location.


Knowledge of the genome of the poplar (Populus trichocarpa) allows researchers to look for the genes − DNA codes for properties − that are specific to trees. Thus, the poplar − with the relatively limited size of its genome − serves as a model organism for trees. Populus trichocarpa has in fact ‘only’ 520 million base pairs (the DNA building blocks), which is about 50 times fewer than a pine tree. Then again, the poplar has four times as many DNA as Arabidopsis, a model plant whose genome was deciphered four years ago.

In May 2002, the international consortium set to work to determine the poplar’s genome. To do this, they used a female poplar from the banks of the Nisqually River in Washington state (USA). The researchers needed just over two years to determine the 520 million base pairs, distributed among 19 chromosomes.

By comparing the genomes of these two model organisms − Populus and Arabidopsis − scientists such as Yves Van de Peer and Pierre Rouzé hope to identify the genes specific to trees. With the aid of sophisticated computer programs, these VIB bio-informatics researchers will identify the genes in the poplar DNA. On the basis of mathematical algorithms, the researchers predict that the poplar has around 50,000 genes, and they anticipate that about 10,000 of them are not found in Arabidopsis and are therefore possibly ‘tree-specific’.

A variety of applications

With the new data, molecular biologists like Wout Boerjan and his research team can get down to work to discover the functions of the genes. This basic research can provide a wealth of information about how trees work, and it can also provide answers to universal biological questions. Indeed, many of the responses and functions found in plants, and thus trees as well, are also found in human and animal life.

But this research can also lead to particular applications in fields such as ecology. A thorough genetic knowledge enables researchers to modify trees genetically for the benefit of humankind and the environment. The genome sequence can contribute to strategies for improving trees more rapidly or for modifying them genetically. Today, trees are the earth’s lungs − and, for example, they can be modified so that they work more effectively in trapping CO2, the primary greenhouse gas. In addition, new tree varieties can be produced that have a finer timber quality. Wood is also the principal material for paper production, and Wout Boerjan and his team are investigating which genes are crucial to the formation of wood and how they might optimize the structure and composition of wood to improve the production of paper.

Sooike Stoops | alfa
Further information:
http://www.vib.be

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

nachricht Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing
20.06.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>