Breakthrough technique for studying gene expression takes root in plants

phys.org | 5/9/2019 | Staff
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An open-source RNA analysis platform has been successfully used on plant cells for the first time—a breakthrough that could herald a new era of fundamental research and bolster efforts to engineer more efficient food and biofuel crop plants.

The technology, called Drop-seq, is a method for measuring the RNA present in individual cells, allowing scientists to see what genes are being expressed and how this relates to the specific functions of different cell types. Developed at Harvard Medical School in 2015, the freely shared protocol had previously only been used in animal cells.

Plant - Biology - Researcher - Diane - Dickel

"This is really important in understanding plant biology," said lead researcher Diane Dickel, a scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab). "Like humans and mice, plants have multiple cell and tissue types within them. But learning about plants on a cellular level is a little bit harder because, unlike animals, plants have cell walls, which make it hard to open the cells up for genetic study."

For many of the genes in plants, we have little to no understanding of what they actually do, Dickel explained. "But by knowing exactly what cell type or developmental stage a specific gene is expressed in, we can start getting a toehold into its function. In our study, we showed that Drop-seq can help us do this."

Technologies - Plants - Conditions - Level—something - Plant

"We also showed that you can use these technologies to understand how plants respond to different environmental conditions at a cellular level—something many plant biologists at Berkeley Lab are interested in because being able to grow crops under poor environmental conditions, such as drought, is essential for our continued production of food and biofuel resources," she said.

Dickel, who studies mammalian genomics in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division, has been using Drop-seq on animal cells for several years. An immediate fan...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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