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Crop Biotech Update

'Noisy' Gene Atlas to Explain How Plants Survive Environmental Changes

January 30, 2019

Scientists at the Sainsbury University (SLCU) have built a gene expression atlas that maps the ‘noisy genes' of genetically identical plants.

Using thale cress seedlings, the researchers conducted RNA-sequencing on individual seedlings every two hours over a 24-hour period and analyzed the variability for 15,646 individual genes in the plant's genome. The researchers found that around 9% (1,358 individual genes) of the genes in identical plants are highly variable in the way they behave. Interestingly, many of these highly variable or 'noisiest' genes help a plant respond to its environment, including genes involved in reacting to light, temperature, pathogens, and nutrients.

The study also identified factors that might increase gene expression variability. Highly variable genes tend to be shorter, to be targeted by a higher number of other genes (transcription factors) and to be characterized by a ‘closed' chromatin environment (which is an environment that allows gene expression to be altered by attaching additional molecules during the gene reading process (transcription) without actually changing a cell's DNA).

SLCU Research Group Leader Dr. James Locke, said the data was a significant new resource for further research. 'This is an important resource for scientists studying how genetically identical plants survive fluctuating environments and provides a basis for future work looking at how genetic and epigenetic factors regulate variability for individual genes.'

For details, read the research news at the University of Cambridge website.