Know how large a plant will be by genetic material

Scientists from the Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB) and the University of Gent developed a new method to predict what the size of a plant will be, this happens at seedling level. This could accelerate breeding programs. The new method is based on the knowledge of a set of genes that is correlated with the size of the leaf. Scientists used sophisticated and detailed analysing methods to identify this set of genes. An expression analysis of these specific genes could help breeders with the selection of interesting intersection products at an early stadium.

It is a long process to develop new plant varieties with a better yield and that are more resistant against diseases. In particular, the process to select the most interesting intersection products is intensive, time-consuming and cost a lot of money. In order to determine whether an intersection product is resistant against a disease, the plants must first be infected, and in order to verify the seed yield of corn, the corn must first form into a corncob. This selection process can be made much more efficient by selecting with the genetic information rather than on the appearance of the plant. Many features are in the DNA.

Because of a better understanding of the molecular of the plant growth and development we know more characteristics which DNA are responsible for. By detecting this DNA in a plant seed, we can determine in a very early stage if the disease will be resistant or not and all this without infecting a plant. This type of breeding is known as marker-associated breeding. Scientists associated with VIB and the University of Gent have developed a new method that can predict from a corn seedling how large the leaves will be. This method uses RNA instead of DNA.

Hereditary information is contained in the DNA, but not all information can be available in every plant cell. For example, the genes for flower development must not be active in the root of the plant. Before genetic information is expressed, the DNA code is transcribed into RNA and the RNA code is translated into a protein.
The RNA-molecules give us a better view on the active genes during the growing process.

Together with colleagues from the Italian Institute of Life Sciences in Pisa, the Belgium plant scientists investigated the transcriptome of cell division zone in young corn leaves. They were able to establish a link between a set of RNA molecules and exterior features which express much later, for example, leaf size and biomass production. With this knowledge, breeders can select more focused during the plant breeding process. The results of the research have been published in 2 scientific articles in the journal Genome Biology.

Source: AgriHolland / Universiteit Gent

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