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Jeffrey Boore is senior author on a manuscript published by the journal Science (online as of December 13, 2007, with the print version to appear in January 2008) that describes the complete genome sequence of the moss, Physcomitrella patens. This project was undertaken by the Community Sequencing Program of the DOE Joint Genome Institute in response to a proposal by Ralph Quatrano of Washington University and Brent Mishler of the University of California Berkeley. This project was of interest to the DOE largely because of its value in improving plants for biofuels production, but this genome is also important to basic science, in part because of the ease of systematically knocking out its genes one-by-one. The features of the moss genome were compared with those of the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas and several vascular plants, using cladistic character state reconstructions to infer the genomic events concommitent with plants' conquest of the land.

This work included scores of scientists from 40 institutions around the world.  The genome is 500 million nucleotides in size and has approximately 36,000 genes.   The total cost of the project was approximately $6 million.  Data from the project can be accessed from the JGI Physcomitrella genome browser.

Abstract from the manuscript:

The genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens reveals evolutionary insights into the conquest of land by plants:  We report the draft genome sequence of the model moss Physcomitrella patens and compare its features to those of unicellular aquatic algae and flowering plants, from which it is separated by more than 400 million years. This reveals genomic changes concomitant with the evolutionary movement to land, including a general increase in gene family complexity, loss of genes associated with aquatic environments (e.g. flagellar arms), acquisition of genes for tolerating terrestrial stresses (e.g. variation in temperature and water availability), and the development of the auxin and abscisic acid signaling pathways for co-ordinating multicellular growth and dehydration response. The Physcomitrella genome provides a resource for phylogenetic inferences about gene function and for experimental analysis of plant processes through this plant’s unique facility for reverse genetics.

Here are several other press releases regarding this work:

From the DOE Joint Genome Institute
From the American Society of Plant Biologists
From the University of California Berkeley
From Genome Web News
From the Telegraph of London

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