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University of Leeds genetics researchers are part of an international
project to determine the genome sequence of the fast-growing moss,
Physcomitrella patens. Understanding how this British weed works will help
scientists get to the root of how other species live and grow and,
potentially, improve their resilience, August 2004.
The quick-growing moss has been used in plant research for over 30 years
as it's easy to cultivate in laboratories. Genetic information from the
project will help investigators explain why some varieties of moss can
survive extreme conditions.
Lead UK academic Professor Cove explained why the moss is so special:
?Mosses were among the first plants to colonise the land, 450 million years
ago. They can do many of the things that the flowering plants have
forgotten. Some of their 'primitive' traits ? like the ability to survive
extremes of dehydration ? would be useful in modern crops. You can take a
Victorian sample of some mosses and bring them 'back' to life years on by
just adding water. By studying the genes controlling these traits in the
moss, we should be able to identify how these characteristics could be
re-awoken in flowering plants.?
Moss expert Professor David Cove and his team will work with Professor Ralph
Quatrano from St. Louis and Professor Brent Mishler from the University of
California. The sequencing will be carried out by the US Department of
Energy. The project builds on 30 years of research in Leeds, Japan, Germany,
Switzerland and the USA.
The reasons for mapping the moss's genome can be found in another
international research project. Professor Cove said: ?The human genome
project is helping us understand genetic causes of disease - and to develop
new therapies. It?s clear that much of our knowledge came by comparing the
genomes of humans with those of much simpler animals, like flies and worms.
Soon, we?ll be able to do the same thing by comparing the genomes of simple
and complex plants.?
The genome of the moss is larger than that of the first plant genome
sequenced, 'Wonder Weed', Arabidopsis thaliana ? a simple flowering plant
used by plant scientists worldwide as a model for the study of plant
For more information or pictures of the moss, contact:
Professor David Cove, centre for plant sciences, University of Leeds, 0113
343 3094, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Andrew Cuming, centre for plant sciences, 0113 343 3096,
Hannah Love, press office, University of Leeds, 0113 343 4100,
Notes to editors
Professor Cove divides his time between Leeds, where he is a Leverhulme
Emeritus Fellow, and Washington University in St. Louis, where he is the
Clark Way Harrison Visiting Professor.
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