UC Davis research discovery a game changer

Mar 25, 2010

A UC Davis plant scientist has discovered a reliable way to produce plants that carry genetic material from only one parent, a breakthrough that could speed up crop plant breeding programs, according to a letter published today in the online journal Nature.

Assistant professor of plant biology, Simon Chan, said the chance discovery was at first thought to be a mistake.

"We were doing completely 'blue skies' research, and we discovered something that is immediately useful," Chan was quoted in the UC Davis news release about the research.

The research was conducted at the molecular level on Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering spring annual with a short life cycle. Arabidopsis is a popular model organism in plant biology and genetics because its genome is relatively small and was the first plant genome to be sequenced.

Chan's discovery is helpful because plant breeders want to produce plants that carry the same trait on both chromosomes, ensuring they will pass on favorable traits when bred. To do this, the release said, plants must be inbred for several generation to make the plant "breed true."

The research revealed an alternative, less time-consuming process for developing "breed true" plants.

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist