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NSF Awards $2.6M to Fund Research on Plant Long Non-Coding RNAs

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Science Foundation recently awarded roughly $2.6 million to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arizona to investigate the role of long, non-coding RNAs in both the normal development and stress responses of various plant species.

"While the field of genetics has focused in large part on the functions of genes, investigations into the biology of lncRNA molecules are just now gaining steam," UA's Mark Beilstein said in a statement. "Uncovering the functions of lncRNA molecules is an important next step in elucidating how information flows from genomic DNA to RNA and proteins responsible for carrying out the work of the cell."

With the NSF funding, the scientists aim to identify and functionally characterize highly structured nuclear lncRNAs that are stress-responsive, protein-bound, and evolutionarily conserved in the model plants Eutrema salsugineum and Arabidopsis thaliana, as well as in crop species including Camelina sativa, Brassica rapa, Zea mays, and Sorghum bicolor.

Data generated through the work will be used to expand EPIC-CoGe, a central repository for plant epigenomics data maintained by the Epigenomics of Plants International Consortium.

"It is anticipated that … the project will provide novel insights into plant gene expression regulation by lncRNAs and provide important new findings and resources for studies focused on the improvement of numerous crop and genetic model plants," according to the grant's abstract.