Dr. Steven Henikoff, an investigator in the Basic Sciences Division, has been awarded more than $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation for his laboratory's ongoing research to probe gene function in plants.
The three-year project will make use of a technique, known as Targeted Local Lesions IN Genomes (TILLING), developed by Henikoff and colleagues, that allows researchers to induce and analyze mutations rapidly and on a large scale without introducing genetically modified material into organisms. The approach is used to generate mutations that eliminate or reduce gene function, which can be used to understand plant biology and to improve crops. Henikoff has used TILLING to analyze gene function in the plant Arabadopsis thaliana, which serves as a model for many plant biologists.
With the award, Henikoff will apply the TILLING strategy to study gene function in maize (corn) and will establish a maize TILLING facility in which large-scale maize-genome analysis can be conducted. In addition, a TILLING resource is being developed for analyzing plant populations from collaborators. Mutations discovered by these efforts will be provided to users and made available to the general research community, and the corresponding lines will be deposited at stock centers, where they will be freely available to researchers.
Co-investigators on the study include Dr. Luca Comai, professor of biology at the University of Washington, and Dr. Clifford Weil, a professor of agronomy at Purdue University.