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UT Austin Leading $3.8M Cotton Sequencing Project

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Texas at Austin has reaped a $3.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the genomes of two cotton plants that could improve the yield and expand potential uses for the crop, UT said today.

Cotton is still a 'king' crop in Texas, which provides around 25 percent of the US supply each year, and findings from this research into the cotton genome could provide data that would be used to develop the plant's commercial applications further.

The goal is to identify genes and sequences that are involved in development of cotton fiber cells and synthesis of cellulose and cell walls.

UT researchers will work with researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute, North Carolina State University, Alcorn State University, and Texas A&M University using next-generation sequencing to identify gene expression changes that occur at critical points in the development of cotton fiber.

The researchers plan to sequence the genomes of two widely cultivated species, Upland and Pima cotton, both of which have polyploid genomes that are complex and difficult to analyze.

"The more we can understand fiber cell development and improve cotton fiber yield, the better we can provide a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based synthetic fibers," explained Z. Jeffrey Chen, a professor of plant molecular genetics at UT Austin and leader on the research.

Information about these genomes could yield knowledge with applications to the cottonseed oil and biofuel industries, and potentially could be used to develop strains that require fewer pesticides.