French and UK researchers pool resources to provide comprehensive wheat gene library

April 16, 2003

Brussels, 15 Apr 2003

French and UK researchers have pooled their resources to create the world's largest library of genetic information from the study of wheat.

After several years of work and exchange visits, scientists at the John Innes centre (JIC) in the UK and the national institute for agronomical research (INRA) in France were able to combine their bacterial artificial chromosome libraries (BAC), each consisting of one or two genes and amounting to over one million fragments in all. The end result is the entire gene make up of wheat contained in two large freezers full of tiny test tubes.

According to Graham Moore, project leader at JIC, the library is not just significant in scientific terms - society at large is affected, as wheat is an important staple crop for a large proportion of the global population. However, as the genome of wheat is five times larger than the human genome, '[...] it makes both studying its biology and using genetics to improve the quality of the crop very difficult,' said Dr Moore.

'The comprehensive genetic libraries that we are making available will help scientists and breeders who are seeking to improve the performance of wheat in agricultural systems around the world,' he added.

Indeed the joint effort not only saves time in completing the wheat gene library, it also provides additional and diverse information to researchers due to differences within the libraries.

'This is an excellent example of the importance of publicly funded research and international collaboration in making the benefits of life science research available to society,' said Professor Julia Goodfellow, chief executive of the biotechnology and biological sciences research council (BBSRC).

News of the French and UK collaboration has spread to the USA, Japan, China and Australia, who have all expressed interest in using the library. According to Boulos Chalhoub, project leader at INRA, 'This shows just how valuable a resource we have developed, and in time we expect to see these libraries helping researchers and breeders in their continuing pursuit of both global food security and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

'We would like to see this collaboration set the pattern for the future, with major international cooperative efforts on a wide variety of crops, developing genetic resources that are openly accessible to academic and commercial organisations,' he added.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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