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Gene expression profiling of plant vascular tissue in model and crop species (VASCULAR GENE MAPS)
Start date: Jul 1, 2013, End date: Jun 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Plant vascular meristematic cells are present in the cambium and procambium and divide in a highly ordered manner resulting in cells that differentiate into xylem tissue (responsible for water transport), and phloem tissue (which transport nutrients). Lodging due to breakage of plant stems negatively impacts crop yields, and remains a problem in species such as rice and wheat. Vascular tissue contains cells with woody secondary cell walls that provide much of the plants mechanical strength so modifying developmental processes that lead to vascular specification has the potential to improve yield. Furthermore, the vascular system is responsible for generating the majority of plant biomass. Plant biomass could be utilised in the future to make the next generation of liquid biofuels reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Understanding the events that occur in the vascular meristem may help us to best utilise plants for increased biofuel production.Gene expression maps, where levels of expression of all the genes in the genome in specific cell types have been quantified are extremely useful in identifying genes that control specific processes in the model species. However, there is a lack of similar data for economically important species such as rice. Novel methodologies will be required to generate this expression data as fewer resources are available for these species. This IOF will allow the researcher to learn these methods in Sorghum and tomato in the outgoing phase of the fellowship, prior to applying them in a comparative study of Arabidopsis and rice in the return phase. Individual cell types of the plant vascular system will be isolated using novel methodologies and their RNA will be extracted and sequenced using state-of-the-art techniques. The data will provide an important reference for further research and lead to identification of key genetic components of plant vascular development that could be manipulated to improve grain and biomass yields.

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