Amborella is an understory shrub or small tree found in only one place on the planet: the Pacific islands of New Caledonia. The plant, a direct descendant of the common ancestor of all flowering plants, is the single known living species on the earliest branch of the genetic tree of life of flowering plants.
As such, Amborella is a molecular living fossil, said Victor Albert, UB Empire Innovation Professor in biological sciences and a co-principal investigator on the Amborella genome project.
View a video interview with Albert here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDfW-uTs1i0
In the same way that the DNA of the platypus, a mammal of ancient lineage, can help us study the evolution of all mammals, the DNA of Amborella can help us learn about the evolution of all flowers, Albert said.
Specifically, by comparing the genetic make-up of Amborella to that of newer species, biologists will be able to study a diverse range of plant characteristics, from how flowers resist drought and how fruits mature to how critical crops might respond to global warming.
“This is work that’s related to the human condition in various ways. We’re talking about food, fiber, fuel and the future,” said Albert, a faculty member in UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. “Most of our food comes from flowers. All the fruit crops and grains are flowering plants. Cotton fiber is from fruit, and fruits come from flowers. Soybeans are fruits. Rice comes from the seed of a flowering plant.”
Albert’s co-investigators include Claude W. dePamphilis at Pennsylvania State University, who is leading the research; Hong Ma and Stephan Schuster at Penn State; Douglas E. Soltis, Pamela S. Soltis and W. Brad Barbazuk at the University of Florida; Steven D. Rounsley at the University of Arizona; James Leebens-Mack at the University of Georgia; Jeffrey Palmer at Indiana University; and Susan Wessler at the University of California, Riverside. The National Science Foundation is funding the project.
The team plans to complete and publish a draft sequence of the Amborella genome this year, Albert said. To share results with scientists around the world, the group will make the genome available online.
“The Amborella genome and the strategies we are using to obtain and analyze the genome will provide not only a unique scientific resource with broad impacts on plant biology, but it also will provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate the utility of an evolutionary perspective across the biological sciences,” said Albert, who is also a member of teams sequencing the genomes of coffee and avocado.
The Amborella project builds on another floral genetics project that dePamphilis of Penn State led. In that earlier study, he and partners including Albert sought information on the origins of flowers by comparing active genes of flowering plants including Amborella and non-flowering plants called gymnosperms.
The team published major findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December, reporting that genetic programming found in gymnosperm cones gave rise to flowering plants.The Amborella genome project is the natural next step: Now that we know more about how the first flowers evolved, what can we learn about how they diversified? With a fossil record dating to just over 130 million years ago, flowering plants now include as many as 400,000 species on land and in water.
Sequencing a genome involves determining the order in which nucleotide bases -- adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine -- appear in strands of DNA.
To complete this task, the Amborella team is employing “shotgun” technology that breaks DNA into tiny bits, sequences those bits simultaneously and reassembles them into a long chain. The approach is cheaper and quicker than older methods that require scientists to sequence entire strands of DNA in order, beginning at one end and moving to the other.
At UB, Albert and fellow researchers will use visual mapping to check their colleagues’ work, examining large pieces of sequenced DNA under a microscope to make sure those pieces fit correctly on Amborella chromosomes. (Though scientists do not know the exact sequence of the Amborella genome, they do already know how large chunks of DNA map to one another.)
UB researchers will also compare Amborella’s genetic material to that of other plants, including rice, the cucumber, the tomato and the potato.
The goal of these comparative studies is to learn more about whole-genome duplication, a commonplace process in flowers in which a new plant inherits an extra, duplicate copy of its parents’ DNA. Because redundant copies of genes can evolve to develop new functions, scientists think that whole-genome duplication may be behind “Darwin’s abominable mystery” -- the abrupt proliferation of new varieties of flowering plants in fossil records dating to the Cretaceous period.
Amborella has relatively few chromosomes, leading biologists including Albert to conclude that the species may never have undergone such a doubling.
Besides research, the Amborella genome project also includes plans for creating education, training and mentoring opportunities for high school students, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
Charlotte Hsu | Newswise Science News
Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."
Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
05.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Life Sciences
08.12.2017 | Information Technology
08.12.2017 | Information Technology