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NSF Awards University of Minnesota More than $11M to Sequence Medicago, Soil Bacterium

NEW YORK, Oct. 21 (GenomeWeb News) - The University of Minnesota has received more than $11 million in two separate sequencing grants awarded by the National Science Foundation.

One grant provides $10.8 million for a three-year, multi-institution initiative to sequence the genome of the model legume Medicago truncatula (the barrel medic). Another grant provides $699,245 for a two-year project to sequence the genome of Arthrobacter aurescens, a soil bacterium that degrades atrazine and other herbicides.

Medicago truncatula will be the third plant genome to be sequenced, following Arabidopsis and rice. The plant is considered an excellent experimental system to study agriculturally important legumes like soybeans, mung beans, chickpeas, cowpeas, alfalfa, and lentils.

Nevin Young, a professor in the university's College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, will direct the Medicago project. Collaborators include Bruce Roe, director of the University of Oklahoma Genome Center, and Chris Town of the Institute for Genome Research, who will lead the sequencing work. Ernest Retzel of Minnesota's Center for Computational Genomics and Bioinformatics will be responsible for the bioinformatics component of the project.

Medicago has eight chromosomes. The Minnesota-led group will sequence six, and a parallel Medicago sequencing initiative in England and France will sequence two. The NSF grant adds to more than $5 million in Medicago genomics research already underway at the University of Minnesota.

The Arthrobacter project, meanwhile, will be directed by Michael Sadowsky, a professor in the department of soil, water, and climate in the university's College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences; and Lawrence Wackett, a professor in the department of biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS). Genome sequencing will be done in collaboration with Karen Nelson of TIGR.

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