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Crop Biotech Update

Borrowed Genes Help Arabidopsis arenosa Survive Harsh Soils

June 29, 2016

Scientists from the John Innes Centre have analyzed the genomes of plants that grow in harsh, serpentine soils and have found out how they survive in such conditions. The team, which included Dr. Kirsten Bomblies and Dr. Levi Yant, used new techniques in genomics to determine which genes give serpentine plants their incredible tolerance.

Seeds of Arabidopsis arenosa, a close relative of Arabidopsis thaliana, were collected from all over Europe and tissues from plants grown from these collected seeds were used for genomic analysis. Researchers found that the serpentine population of A. arenosa possessed gene variants that may help them cope with challenges.

Researchers hypothesize that some of A. arenosa's adaptations evolved independently through natural selection. However, they also found A. lyrata gene variants in the genome of the serpentine-tolerant A. arenosa but not in other populations, suggesting that serpentine-tolerant population has borrowed some advantageous migrant genes from its relative.

Knowing which genes help A. arenosa thrive in poor soils would be useful for crop breeders, who may be able to use this knowledge to develop stress resilient crop varieties.

For more on this study, read the article on the John Innes Centre website.