NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have won $4.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to study the role that transposable elements (TE) could play in helping plants adapt to changes in climate.
The school will use the five-year grant to study rice, which is known for having a stable genome and for being the most grown human food crop on the planet.
The research team, which includes scientists from Boyce Thompson Institute and Cornell University, will use an Illumina HiSeq 2000 in the UCR Institute for Integrative Genome Biology genomics core to sequence the genomes and measure gene expression of rice varieties.
The scientists will use a transposon tagging system to track a mobile transposable element as it moves around in the rice genome and inserts itself into or near a gene to alter the gene's expression or function.
The project will study the effects of transposable elements on gene expression by comparing strains of rice with high and low copy numbers and their progeny from a genetic cross, and it will map the effects of these elements in specific regions in the genome.
"Thus far, only in rice do we see a TE increasing its copy number at an incredibly high rate," UCR genetics Professor Susan Wessler said in a statement.
"In this project we hope to understand how a TE is able to avoid a host's immunity," she said. "By studying many generations of rice plants, we may be able to find plants in which the host plant has recognized the active TE and turned its activity off."