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Indiana U to Lead $8M NSF Plant Genomics Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Indiana University has been awarded an $8 million grant from the National Science Foundation that it will use in a four-year, multi-center study of the genetics and genomics of "economically important and evolutionarily interesting plants," IU said this week.

The researchers will study the compositae family of flowering pants, which includes sunflowers, safflowers, lettuce, daisies, and dandelions, the university said.

The researchers at IU will spread the funding out to four partner institutes, including investigators at the University of California at Davis, the University of Massachusetts Boston, the University of Georgia, and California State Polytechnic University.

The IU group will focus on genetic changes in crop sciences and weeds that have led to similar changes in form, such as height or bushiness, and will attempt to find out what changes in the plants are likely to be the result of gene expression or of changes in the genes themselves. These studies could help scientists learn how to reproduce these characteristics in other plants.

The studies also will look into how chromosome duplication may have influenced the evolution of Compositae species, as some plants are able to tolerate genome duplication, while chromosome changes in humans lead to cell death or developmental defects.

"This project will have a major, lasting impact on both crop and weed science through the production of permanent, publicly available genomics resources," said Loren Rieseberg, a biology professor at IU who is lead investigator for the project. "All results will be disseminated via publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at national and international meetings, and the resulting data will be made publicly available via deposition in freely-accessible, online databases."

The university said that the scientists have already received $2.3 million to begin their research efforts.