Crop Biotech Update

Study Shines Light into "Black Holes" in Arabidopsis Genome

November 17, 2021

Scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (Salk), together with researchers from the University of Cambridge and Johns Hopkins University have sequenced the genome of the world's most widely used model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana, at a level of detail never previously achieved.

The study reveals the secrets of Arabidopsis chromosome regions called centromeres, shining the light on centromere evolution and providing insights into the genomic equivalent of black holes. Arabidopsis was adopted as a model plant due to its short generation time, small size, ease of growth, and prolific seed production through self-pollination. In 2000, it became the first plant to have its genome sequenced. This initial genome release was of an excellent standard, but was unable to assemble the highly repetitive and complex regions known as centromeres, telomeres, and ribosomal DNA. Now, these challenging regions have been assembled for the first time.

For decades, researchers have tried to understand how and why centromeric DNA evolves with extraordinary speed, whilst remaining stable enough to perform its job during cell division. In the study, the compiled centromere maps provide new insights into the "repeat ecosystem" found in the centromere. The maps reveal the architecture of the repeat arrays, which has implications for how they evolve, and for the chromatin and epigenetic states of the centromeres.

For more details, read the article in Salk News.

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