NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — A group of researchers led by the University of Delaware and backed by a $5.3 million in National Science Foundation grant will use deep sequencing technology from Illumina to study rice epigenetics, UD said today.
The researchers hope that the study could lead to hardier strains of rice and shed light on similar mechanisms at work in corn and other cereal grains that are closely related to rice.
As part of the four-year study, the researchers hope that Ilumina’s sequencing technology, together with internally developed bioinformatics tools to process the data, will help them discover how chromatin functions in plant development.
UD said the project will be one of the first large-scale endeavors to apply Illumina’s sequencer to study crop plants.
“If we learn about [a] gene by random sampling, by using 50 million total sequences, which is what SBS provides, we can characterize that gene at depth,” UD researcher and principal investigator Blake Meyers said in a statement.
Meyers added that by using this method “we can obtain statistically robust data for nearly all genomic regions in a single experiment.”
“Formerly, we had a very narrow picture of a plant's genome,” Myers said. “With these new sequencing technologies, we now have the opportunity to acquire a comprehensive picture at fine detail. It's like looking through a high-powered telescope -- but now we have a wide-angle lens on that telescope to take in a view with both breadth and depth.”
The bioinformatics component will be an integral part of the research, Meyers said, because new and tailored methods and tools will be needed to “process the vast amounts of data and mine new discoveries.”
Working with Meyers will be rice biologist Guo-Liang Wang from Ohio State University, epigenetics researcher Steven Jacobsen and computer scientist Matteo Pellegrini from the University of California at Los Angeles, and Yulin Jia, a plant pathologist from the US Department of Agriculture.