Press Release

TIGR and Multinational Consortia Announce Sequencing Results of First Genome of A Higher Plant

December 08, 2000

ROCKVILLE, MD - Researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) together with two other teams of scientists join the National Science Foundation today in announcing their contributions to the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative (AGI), a multinational consortium of sequencing centers from the United States, Europe and Japan, which was created in 1996 to ensure timely completion of DNA sequencing of the five chromosomes constituting the Arabidopsis thaliana genome. Results of the collaborative project will be announced in Nature's December 14 issue, which includes four articles describing the results from the sequencing of the entire genome of this small plant in the mustard family.

One of the smallest plant genomes known, Arabidopsis thaliana, was selected for this large-scale research effort because of several significant characteristics including its small size, short life cycle and compact genome among plant species. It is only about 1/25th the size of the human genome, is organized into five chromosomes, and contains the genetic code needed to understand the organization and function of higher plant life. As such, the information gleaned from this important collaborative project may be applied to all plants including crops of agronomic importance such as rice, corn, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and others.

Current and former TIGR scientists involved in this project include Claire M. Fraser, President of TIGR and lead investigator; J. Craig Venter, founder and former president of TIGR, Steve Rounsley, original principal investigator; the chromosome II team, originally led by Samir Kaul, and Xiaoying Lin, Chris Town, Owen White, Robin Buell, Catherine Ronning, William Nierman, Tamara Feldblyum, and Maria-Ines Benito.

"Collaborating on a project of this magnitude demonstrates the capabilities of this institution," said Claire M. Fraser, President of TIGR. "TIGR became involved when the project commenced in 1996. Since then we have sequenced one third of the genome, which is the largest contribution by a single group."

By agreement, the members of the international Arabidopsis Genome Initiative group initially distributed sequencing efforts on a chromosome by chromosome basis. Subsequently, on December 16, 1999 TIGR researchers announced the successful completion of the sequencing of chromosome II of Arabidopsis thaliana. (Lin & Kaul, et al. 1999, Nature, 402:761-768). At the same time, Arabidopsis chromosome IV was sequenced by a joint effort of the European Union

Arabidopsis Genome Sequencing Consortium, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Washington University St. Louis and PE Biosystems (Mayer et al. 1999, Nature, 402:769-777), while chromosomes I, III and V were completed this year. As the project progressed, groups, which had completed their initial assignment, redirected their efforts towards other parts of the genome to ensure timely completion of the entire project.

Users interested in the analysis of the genome should visit the TIGR World Wide Web site at http://www.tigr.org. Visitors can view the plant's gene sequences, functional assignments of those genes, and graphical depictions of Arabidopsis genes in the genome. Web displays of this kind enable researchers to link experimental information such as genetic studies, or comparisons to closely related plants, to the genomic information generated by the Arabidopsis sequencing project. This web site also contains links to the other Arabidopsis sequence analysis centers.

"The Arabidopsis thaliana genome encodes about 25,000 genes," said Dr. Fraser. "The next goal is to discover the function of each of these genes and their role in the life of the plant. TIGR expects to be actively involved in this new and exciting phase of plant biology."

The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) is a not-for-profit research institute with interests in structural, functional and comparative analysis of genomes and gene products in viruses, eubacteria, pathogenic bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes (plant, animal and human). TIGR was the first institution to sequence the first three genomes from free-living organisms (Haemophilus influenzae, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Methanococcus jannaschii) in 1995 and 1996 and has recently completed the sequencing of its 20th microbial genome. TIGR also was the first institution to complete the first sequence of a chromosome from the malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and from the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana.

The AGI project was funded by a cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation, (NSF) the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

To see a video of the press conference, go to NSF News