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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Genomics and Gene Discovery

Biotech

 

Mission Statement

The Genomics and Gene Discovery Research Unit conducts research that employs modern molecular, genomics, and bioinformatics strategies to enhance agronomic performance and end uses Triticeae family crops (wheat, barley, rye) and oats, and development of resources for improving biofuel grasses. These strategies are employed for the characterization, identification and utilization of genes in these species. This unit is also involved in the development and curation of the GrainGenes website and database, the most comprehensive source of molecular and phenotypic information on the Triticeae and oats. The Genomics and Gene Discovery Research Unit collaborates extensively, both domestically and internationally, on these projects for the improvement and understanding of the Triticeae family.

This project contributes strongly to National Program 301, Plant, Microbial, and Insect Germplasm, Conservation, and Development (60%) and NP 302, Plant Biological and Molecular Processes (40%). This project is moving into the area of functional genomics and the development of resources to address issues on wheat improvement.  In addition, the scope and wide applicability of genomics technologies can benefit many aspects of plant research. Thus, the genomics development portion of this project is contributing to all other Programs that involve, or depend on, genetic or molecular data, gene mapping, and germplasm identification and management, i.e., National Programs 303 (Plant Diseases), 304 (Crop Protection and Quarantine), 306 (Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products), 307 (Bioenergy and Energy Alternatives), and 107 (Human Nutrition).

There are currently three areas of research:

Genomics and Bioinformatics of Small Grains
Molecular Basis of Key Cereal Grain Traits
Development of Biotechnological Resources for Biofuels

 


Genomics and Bioinformatics of Small Grains

Bioinformatics

 

The project has two interrelated objectives:

1) Development and curation of an integrated database (GrainGenes) resource for wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and oat research and improvement, and

2) Development of associated databases and informatics tools for support of small grains genetic improvement.

This project contributes strongly to National Program 301 (100%), Plant, Microbial, and Insect Germplasm, Conservation, and Development, through the section on "Genomics and Database Management."  In addition, the scope and wide applicability of genomics technologies and computer database means this project is also contributing to all other Programs that involve, or depend on, genetic or molecular data, gene mapping, and germplasm identification and management; i.e., National Programs 302-304, 306-307, and 107.

GrainGenes Database

The GrainGenes database has long been a resource for information on the small grain crops. A recent revitalization of the database was to port all the data into a relational database and build links to other recent information on the genome structure of the grass species. The GrainGenes migration to a relational database format is projected to be more suitable for handling large-scale genomics and genotyping data and will provide faster and more flexible access of researchers to a wide range of important data types. For more information, please visit the main website for GrainGenes.

The new version of the GrainGenes Database (GG2) includes a multi-featured GG2 homepage and a user-friendly GG2 SQL page.

Other Project Support

Using bioinformatics resources available to the Genomics and Gene Discovery research unit, partnerships have been made to assist other projects in small grains research.

 


Molecular Basis of Key Cereal Grain Traits

Biotechnology

The specific objectives of this project are:

1) Apply molecular biology and genetic engineering to wheat high-molecular-weight (HMW) glutenin class seed storage protein genes to understand the molecular bases of their contributions to wheat quality and utilization,

2) Determine the structure and variability of wheat quality-related genetic loci and contribute to the understanding of the organization of the wheat genome, and

3) Develop gene expression profiles across wheat seed development and changes in storage protein gene activity and wheat quality.

This project contributes strongly to National Program 301, Plant, Microbial, and Insect Germplasm, Conservation, and Development (60%) and NP 302, Plant Biological and Molecular Processes (40%). This project is moving into the area of functional genomics and the development of resources to address issues on wheat improvement.  In addition, the scope and wide applicability of genomics technologies can benefit many aspects of plant research. Thus, the genomics development portion of this project is contributing to all other Programs that involve, or depend on, genetic or molecular data, gene mapping, and germplasm identification and management, i.e., National Programs 303 (Plant Diseases), 304 (Crop Protection and Quarantine), 306 (Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products), 307 (Bioenergy and Energy Alternatives), and 107 (Human Nutrition).

Partnerships are also in development to characterize specific wheat gene loci and to design wheat DNA microarrays for the studies of gene expression in small grains.

 


Development of Biotechnological Resources for Biofuels

Biofuels

The primary aims of this project seek to improve the efficiency of biomass utilization through improved crop genetics.  To accomplish this, the project is building on existing knowledge of cell wall biosynthesis to create modified lines of a high-yielding energy crop Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) through transgenesis that are more easily broken down to ethanol.  To increase fundamental understanding of grass cell wall biosynthesis, a molecular genetic approach for identifying genes that alter cell wall composition  which utilizes the model Brachypodium distachyon has been adopted.

Ongoing projects in these areas include:

Alteration of the activity of key lignin biosynthetic enzymes.

Linking transgenes to male sterility.

Identifying novel genes affecting cell wall composition.

 


Last Modified: 12/23/2010