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Press Release 08-189
NSF Awards 20 New Projects for Plant Genome Research

Projects will better define plant responses to changing environments and contribute to understanding of genetic processes in economically important plants

Illustration of Medicago truncatula, a small legume that adapts to high salinity.

Researchers will study how Medicago truncatula, a small legume, adapts to high salinity.
Credit and Larger Version

October 27, 2008

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 20 new awards totaling $57.3 million during the 11th year of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP).

These awards, which cover two to five years and range from $350,000 to $6.8 million, support research and tool development to further knowledge of genome structure and function. They will leverage sequence and functional genomics resources to increase understanding of gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in economically important crop plants such as corn, soybean, wheat and rice.

"Plant biologists continue to make significant conceptual and theoretical advances in our understanding of basic biological processes using plants," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "It is clear that 21st century biology has become increasingly quantitative and interdisciplinary. The latest projects funded through the PGRP reflect this shift and will integrate innovative, cutting edge research with the training of the next generation of plant scientists at both research universities and small teaching colleges and universities."

The new awards, made to 45 institutions in 28 states, include international groups of scientists from Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.

First-time recipients of PGRP awards include California State University-Long Beach, Case Western Reserve University, North Carolina Central University, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Southern California and Western Illinois University.

A wealth of genomics tools and sequence resources developed over the past 11 years of the PGRP continues to enable exciting, new comparative approaches to uncover gene networks that regulate plant development and growth in changing environments.

Projects include:

  • Research led by the University of Southern California to study how Medicago truncatula, a small legume, and associated soil bacteria co-adapt to high salinity conditions. This project will be done in collaboration with scientists in Tunisia and France.
  • Research led by the University of Minnesota, Duluth to identify the molecular mechanisms of nectar synthesis and secretion in the Brassicaceae, an agriculturally important family of flowering plants.
  • An interdisciplinary effort led by Pennsylvania State University to define the regulation of maize shoot growth and development by the plant hormone auxin.
  • A multi-institutional effort led by the University of California, Davis to develop genomics resources that will support the physical mapping of wheat chromosomes; this project will complement ongoing national and international efforts to sequence the wheat genome.
  • Research led by the University of Georgia to generate populations of mutant plants that will advance our understanding of the functions of agronomically important genes in soybean.

This year's awards were selected from a pool of outstanding proposals, many of which leveraged data and other resources previously produced with PGRP funding. The outstanding quality of these proposals testifies to the PGRP's success in enabling innovative research.

The PGRP, which was established in 1998 as part of the coordinated National Plant Genome Initiative by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes of the National Science and Technology Council, works to advance the understanding of the structure and function of genomes of plants of economic importance.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, NSF, (703) 292-8310, lwhitema@nsf.gov

Related Websites
Fiscal Year 2008 Awards: http://www.nsf.gov/bio/pubs/awards/pgr.htm

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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