Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Predicting the movement of genes

30.12.2002


While promising the possibility of hardier crops and a larger, more robust food supply for the world, worries continue over the effect genetically engineered plants might have on the environment. One fear is over the movement of altered genes from domesticated populations to the wild and the effect of these "escaped" genes on ecosystems. In a study published in the December issue of Ecological Applications, Charity Cummings (University of Kansas), Helen Alexander (University of Kansas), Allison Snow (Ohio State University), Loren Riesenberg (University of Indiana) and colleagues tracked the movement of three specific alleles, or genes, in wild and domesticated sunflowers to determine how often and to what extent these plant populations will hybridize and pass specific genes on to the next generation.

Domesticated sunflowers are commonly grown in the plains states of the US and California, and the wild sunflower is a native, annual weed that occurs throughout most of the US. Sunflower and other crops are currently under development for a variety of traits to make them more resistant to fungi and pests. Currently wild sunflowers pose a problem for farmers as a weed in domesticated sunflower crops. These already weedy plants could cause even more damage if a gene for insect resistance crossed into the wild population from the cultivated sunflowers.

Many undergraduate biology students conduct an experiment using daphnia, crickets or other small invertebrates, measuring the number of offspring produced, how many survive and several other factors to understand survivorship and other population concepts. The scientists used a similar approach to predict the likelihood of genes from hybrid crops entering wild populations and staying in the wild sunflowers. Starting with a hundred wild plants and a hundred crop-wild hybrids, the scientists set up three plots and observed the sunflowers for two growing seasons, collecting the seeds to analyze the protein and gene flow between generations of plants.



The team found wild and hybrids had similar survival rates, but the wild plants produced more flower heads, more seeds per head and more seeds overall than the hybrids, suggesting the wild plants would dominate by shear number when competing with the gene-altered hybrid plants. The hybrid seeds were also preferred by birds and other organisms that fed on the seeds, making the chances for these plants to reproduce successfully even lower.

The amount of the genetic markers passed on between generations varied, but the domesticated crop genes were likely to survive for many generations once they enter the wild population. This research could have larger implications for studying other organisms or to estimate the gene movement of other altered crops.

"We already knew that crop genes could spread, but now we know that direct measures of seed production can help predict the frequency of crop genes in wild populations. Also, this study shows that crop genes can persist even when the first generation of hybrids perform quite poorly compared to the wild plants," said Snow.

The group’s research offers new ways for ecological science to predict the movement of genes among plant populations. Previous studies have shown that cultivated crops will cross-pollinate, sharing genetic material with wild plants. Other work indirectly estimated the likelihood of a gene lasting into mixed crop-wild populations while others directly measured gene flow in these hybrid populations. This study is the first to combine these approaches.


Ecological Applications is a peer-reviewed journal published six times a year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Copies of the above article are available free of charge to the press through the Society’s Public Affairs Office. Members of the press may also obtain copies of ESA’s entire family of publications, which includes Ecology, Ecological Applications, and Ecological Monographs. Others interested in copies of articles should contact the Reprint Department at the address in the masthead.

Founded in 1915, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) is a scientific, non-profit, organization with over 7800 members. Through ESA reports, journals, membership research, and expert testimony to Congress, ESA seeks to promote the responsible application of ecological data and principles to the solution of environmental problems.


Annie Drinkard | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

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...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

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...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

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...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

Large-scale battery storage system in field trial

11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>