By Samantha Black, Ph.D.

September 9, 2019 -- The Department of Energy through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, launched a new initiative to develop bioenergy crops through genomics-based research on September, 9. The research will be conducted at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The principle investigator will be Andrea Eveland, PhD, an associate member of the Center.

Sorghum is an attractive model for this research because it is extremely resiliency to drought and heat stresses. Advanced genomics and gene editing methodologies will be used to help guide predictions of gene function in sorghum. Researchers will use field-based phenotyping and ‘forward genetics’ to elucidate differences in various strains of sorghum.

"There are more than 30,000 genes in the sorghum genome and we only have knowledge of what a small fraction of them do, and most of that is derived from other unrelated plant systems," said Eveland. "This is a grand challenge facing biologists now - to define the function of every gene in the genome."

Researchers hope to identify key genes and characterize the regulatory systems that control resiliency of sorghum. Moreover, this research could lay the foundation for phenotype analysis in whole-genome analysis in animal models with potential clinical applications. This $2.7 million award will span three years and is supported by the DOE’s Genome-Enable Plant Biology for Determination of Gene Function program.

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Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impacts at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center's work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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