Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Poplar DNA code cracked - new possibilities for sustainable energy

15.09.2006
Sustainable or renewable energy - in the form of bio-ethanol, for example - can be produced for us by trees.

The influence trees have on our daily life is enormous. Forests cover 30% of the world’s land area, accommodate two thirds of life on earth, and are responsible for 90% of the biomass on solid ground.

Now, an international consortium, which includes researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at Ghent University, has succeeded in unraveling the first tree genome - that of the poplar. Moreover, their research indicates that the poplar has about 45,000 genes. This knowledge is a first step toward being able to make trees grow faster or make them easier to process into paper or energy.

The research results are being published this week in the authoritative journal Science.

... more about:
»Arabidopsis »Bio-Ethanol »DNA

Trees are jacks-of-all-trades

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of trees as providers of clean air as well as raw material for bio-energy, paper, furniture and other useful objects. A lot of the properties that trees possess are not found in other plants, like their abilities to produce large quantities of wood, to synchronize their growth with the seasons, and to adapt to changing environmental conditions. They need these properties because they must be able to survive for many years in the same place.

Poplars cover more than 75 million hectares worldwide, nearly 7 million of which are cultivated for timber production on the one hand (about 4 million hectares) and for environmental purposes on the other hand (about 3 million hectares).

It’s in the genes...

Because the size of its genome is relatively limited, the poplar serves as a model organism for trees. Populus trichocarpa (or black cottonwood, the largest American poplar) has ‘only’ 485 million base pairs - the DNA building blocks - which is about 50 times fewer than a pine tree. By the same token, the poplar has four times as many DNA as Arabidopsis, a small model plant whose genome was cracked six years ago.

In May 2002, the international consortium began the project to determine the poplar’s genome. To do this, they used a female poplar from the banks of the Nisqually River in the state of Washington (USA). Since then, the researchers have determined the 485 million base pairs on the 19 poplar chromosomes and have identified more than 45,000 possible genes.

Scientists led by Yves Van de Peer have compared the genes of the poplar with those of Arabidopsis by using sophisticated computer programs. They’ve been able to show that for about 10% of the poplar genes there are no homologue genes in Arabidopsis. This is a first step toward determining the genetic difference between a tree (poplar) and a herb (Arabidopsis).

The pace of evolution

By comparing the genomes of various plants, bioinformaticians are discovering new things about the evolution of the poplar.

Scientists know that the lines of descent of the poplar and Arabidopsis began to evolve in different directions some 100 to 120 million years ago. The researchers have determined that a doubling of a large part of the poplar’s genes has occurred twice in history. One of these duplications happened at about the time the Arabidopsis line of descent went its separate way; the second duplication was much more recent.

From the comparison of the genomes of the poplar and Arabidopsis, it is also clear that the DNA of Arabidopsis has evolved further than that of the poplar. Thus, evolution takes place at a different tempo in different plants.

A variety of applications

With the new data, molecular biologists, like Wout Boerjan and his research team, can set to work to discover the activities the genes are responsible for. This fundamental research can provide a wealth of information about how trees function, and it can also provide answers to general biology questions. In fact, a lot of the reactions and functions in plants - and thus in trees - are also found in humans and animals.

Furthermore, this research can be applied very concretely - to optimize bio-ethanol production, for example. Wood consists largely of cellulose and hemicellulose, the raw materials for bio-ethanol. However, these materials are locked up in the lignified cell wall and are therefore difficult to access for conversion to bio-ethanol. Wout Boerjan and his team are investigating which genes are important for wood formation and how they might genetically modify the formation of the cell wall to make cellulose and hemicellulose more accessible.

Knowledge of the poplar genome is also important in fields like ecology. In-depth genetic knowledge enables researchers to modify trees genetically to the benefit of people and the environment. The genome sequence can contribute to strategies for improving trees more quickly or for modifying them genetically. Trees are the lungs of the earth - but they can be modified, for example, so that they fix CO2 - the major greenhouse gas - more efficiently. New tree varieties can also be made so that, for example, their wood is better suited for paper production.

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

Further reports about: Arabidopsis Bio-Ethanol DNA

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

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...

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

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>