Scientists Gain Insights From Miscanthus Genome Maps
May 16, 2012

Scientists Gain Insights From Miscanthus Genome Maps

Two reports were released this year on the genome of Miscanthus grasses, which are used in gardens, burned for energy and converted into liquid fuels.

The first, led by the energy crop organization Ceres, appeared in the journal PLoS ONE; the second, from a team led by researchers at the University of Illinois, is in the journal BMC Genomics. The data, materials, methods and genetic markers used in the latter study are available to the public for further research.

Scientists knew that Miscanthus sinensis had a base set of 19 chromosomes, but had no map of the genome. The goal in mapping was to provide researchers with a template from which to base future experiments in yield and desirable traits.

Stephen Moose of the University of Illinois headed the BMC Genomics study. He stated, “Some plants will duplicate their genomes and then there's some sorting that goes on," Moose said. "Sometimes whole chromosomes are lost and sometimes there are fusions. Once there are two copies of each chromosome in a base set, each will proceed along its own evolutionary trajectory. "Often what will happen is even though there are two (versions of the same chromosome), one of them will start to deteriorate over time," Moose said. "Some positions and some genes will win out over the others. Genome duplications may undermine the viability of a plant or give it an advantage. One immediate advantage of doubling, tripling or otherwise duplicating the genome is that it increases the size of the plant, or of certain plant parts.”

This is one of humanity´s oldest activities, breeding for desirable traits in plants and animals. The genome of Miscanthus sinensis will add to our growing store of knowledge of the natural world.