Rice Genome Sequenced

International team unlocks crop's genetic mysteries

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 10, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The complete rice genome, consisting of about 400 million DNA bases holding 37,544 genes on 12 chromosomes, has been sequenced by a team of international scientists.

The research may help in the development of new ways to improve rice crops. The completed rice genome sequence is published in the Aug. 11 issue of Nature.

"Rice is a critically important crop, and this finished sequence represents a major milestone. We know the scientific community can use these data to develop new varieties of rice that deliver increased yields and grow in harsher conditions," Robin Buell, of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Md., said in a prepared statement.

Buell was lead investigator for the TIGR portion of the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), which began in 1998 and pooled the resources of groups from 10 nations, including Japan, China, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Brazil, France, Canada, the United Kingdom.

Over the coming two decades, worldwide rice production must increase by a projected 30 percent to help feed a growing population.

Since rice is genetically similar to other cereal crops such as maize, wheat, barley, rye, sorghum and sugarcane, the completed rice genome may help speed up genetic research into finding ways to increase yield, protect against diseases and pests, and provide drought resistance in those crops.

"Rice is the Rosetta Stone for crop genomes. We can use the rice genome as a base for genomic studies of cereals," Buell said.

More information

The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute explains human genetic mapping.

SOURCE: The Institute for Genomic Research, news release, Aug. 9, 2005

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