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Sequence of rice genome published

11 August 2005

The complete sequence of the rice genome has been published in Nature today (11 August) by an international consortium of scientists, including researchers in the UK supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The research has huge potential benefits as rice directly feeds a quarter of the global population and could also help us to better understand other staple crops, such as wheat and maize.

Access to the complete sequence provides scientists with the opportunity to improve the conventional breeding techniques of new types of rice as well as making it easier to study other members of the grass family which include major food crops. Although crops like wheat and maize are reasonably closely related to rice, their genomes are much larger and represent major scientific challenges. The rice sequence will provide a template for research on these species.

The massive task of sequencing the 390 million base-pair rice genome was carried out over the past four years by the multinational International Rice Genome Sequence Consortium, led by a Japanese team. UK scientists based at the BBSRC-sponsored John Innes Centre in Norwich provided detailed physical maps of one of the chromosomes and contributed to the organisation of the project.

Dr Mike Bevan, one of the research leaders at the John Innes Centre, said, “One of the most important applications of this new genome sequence is in genetic analysis and breeding. Using conventional breeding techniques with the genome sequence holds the promise of accelerated development of new varieties that could have increased yield or disease resistance.”

Scientists will now be able to compare the rice genome with the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis, which has the best know genome sequence, which will lead to a greater understanding of the evolution of different types of plants.

ENDS

Notes to editors

This research will be published in the journal Nature today, 11 August 2005, 'The map-based sequence of the rice genome'.

The Rice Genome Sequence Consortium included groups from the main rice producing nations such as China, India and Thailand, as well as the USA, France and the UK.

The John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

External contact

Michael Bevan, Head, Cell and Developmental Biology Department, John Innes Centre

tel: 01603 450520

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299
fax: 01793 413382

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382