Scientists crack the code of plant genes

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The Independent Online

Scientists have deciphered the complete genetic composition of a plant for the first time in a breakthrough they say could ultimately help cure human diseases.

Scientists have deciphered the complete genetic composition of a plant for the first time in a breakthrough they say could ultimately help cure human diseases.

The genetic code of arabidopsis thaliana, a distant cousin of the cauliflower which gardeners know as thale cress, is published in the current issue of the journal Nature based on work in Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Japan.

The functions of two-thirds of its genes have been identified. Its genes contain about 117 million chemical base pairs. By comparison, corn has 3 billion base pairs.

Jeff Dangl, of the University of North Carolina, said: "Arabidopsis now is the reference plant for all others. It has all the genes that more complicated plants have for roots, seeds, flowers and fighting diseases. Now we know what it essentially takes to make a flower." Although the genes have been mapped out it is not yet clear what they all do.

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