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New approach to unlock the genetic potential of plant cell wall

Posted on 12 June 2017

Researchers from the University of York and the Quadram Institute have unlocked the genetic secrets of plant cell walls, which could help improve the quality of plant-based foods

Recent developments in genome sequencing technology have provided detailed information about the genetics of crop plants, but what has been lacking to date is the technology needed to collect comparable cell wall data to locate, assign and signpost these important genes for plant breeders. 

Using a microarray, sometimes called a lab-on-a-chip, the team were able analyse thousands of plant cell samples simultaneously and harvest a large amount of data relevant to the arrangement of the cell.

They then linked this information back to particular changes in genetic information between the different varieties of plant cell, using a technique called association mapping.

Improvements

Dr Ian Bancroft from the University of York’s Department of Biology said: “Plant cell walls are made up of sugars, which can be arranged into a myriad of different carbohydrates that determine cell wall properties in subtly different but significant ways.

“Variations in these sugars alter the properties of the plant, by affecting how it grows, or how it defends against pests and diseases.  They also affect the properties of materials that we derive from plants, such as the nutritional quality and usability as biofuel products.

“With a better understanding of the genetic controls of plant cell wall synthesis we can make more effective improvements to support agricultural industries and the bioindustry.”

Click here for the full article on the University of York research news feed.