Understanding the Arabidopsis Genome

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What is the Arabidopsis Genome?

The Arabidopsis genome is the genome of the Arabidopsis thaliana plant. A genome, incidentally, is the genetic information about an organism. A genome contains genes, chromosomes and DNA.

The Arabidopsis thaliana plant is an annual flowering plant found in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is small in size, has a short life-span of around six weeks from germination to flowering, and one single plant produces over a thousand seeds. The Arabidopsis plant can be transformed without any need of tissue culture or plant regeneration. The required changes can be brought about by simply dipping the plant in a DNA solution. These characteristics make it ideal as a model for laboratory plant research.

When was the Arabidopsis Genome first mapped?

In December 2000, Arabidopsis thaliana became the first plant ever to have its entire genome mapped. The work was done by the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative group. The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) now maintains the genome database. The Arabidopsis genome is made up of around 157 million base pairs. It has five chromosomes. This makes the Arabidopsis genome one of the smallest in the plant kingdom. Researchers have been successful in finding out the functions of 27000 Arabidopsis genes and their 35000 proteins.

Why is the Arabidopsis Genome important?

The Arabidopsis genome is important to genome science for the following reasons -

  • It was the first plant genome to be mapped.
  • It helped researchers better understand plant genetic, cellular, and molecular biology.
  • It helped researchers study plant and flower development.
  • It helped researchers understand light sensing in plants.
  • It has helped researchers identify genes and genetic functions.
  • It has helped researchers discover that genomes of higher plants have many similarities to genomes of animals.
  • It has helped researchers to study the differences between plant and animal genomes.

What information do we glean from the Arabidopsis Genome?

Plants have an autotrophic nature. This means that, for survival, they require light, water, air, and minerals. Their overall requirements differ from those of animals. This seems obvious enough, so you would think that plants would not have certain protein making genes that are found in animals. However, the mapping of the Arabidopsis genome has shown that the plant does actually contain genes that produce proteins that are required for carrying out certain processes in animals; these processes do not occur in plants, although the protein-making apparatus does. This has led researchers to conclude that the same genetic tools are used for different purposes in different living organisms.