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Illinois to Use Genomics in Sorghum Biofuel Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Department of Agriculture has awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Illinois to use a range of genomics approaches to study if a gene system in sorghum could eventually be used and manipulated to increase biofuel production.

The research at the university will use comparative genomics, targeted resequencing, RNA expression analysis, and association mapping to characterize sorghum in order to regulate the maturation of shoots.

The studies will focus on the expression of a gene system called Glossy15, which in maize has been shown to be involved in delaying flowering and reducing grain yields while leading to increased accumulation of biomass and stalk sugars, as well as a decreased need for nitrogen.

"Because of the close relationship between maize and sorghum, it's possible that interactions between the genes in maize will help program differences in shoot maturation that distinguish grain, sweet, and biomass sorghum cultivars," Stephen Moose, a Univ. of Illinois professor of crop sciences and a member of the Energy Biosciences Institute in the Institute for Genomic Biology, said in a statement.

"Collectively, our results may lead to improved sorghum cultivars optimized for sustainable, low-cost production of biomass for lignocellulosic processing," he added.