University of California, San Diego


September 27, 2000


SUBJECT:  $4.4 Million NSF Genome Grant Award

An NSF Genome Award entitled "Gene Discovery in Aid of Plant Nutrition, Human Health and Environmental Remediation" was funded in the amount of $4.4 Million over the next 4 years. UCSD P.I. Julian Schroeder (Prof of Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology Section).

The grant will fund research using new high throughput technologies developed by Julian Schroeder at UCSD and Dr. Jeff Harper, Associate Professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, to survey the entire genome of the plant Arabidopsis as well as a major crop plant such as rice or corn for genes that enhance accumulation of nutrients.

Identifying genes that enhance nutrient uptake of plants from soils could lead to technologies that require use of less fertilizers, which presently contaminate the environment due to run off into ground waters and the ocean. Furthermore, genes will be sought that regulate the uptake of important nutrients such as iron into crop plants. Iron deficiency in humans is the most prevalent nutritional problem in the world affecting 2.7 billion people and enhancing iron contents in crop plants could be part of the solution to this wide spread nutritional deficiency. The grant will be shared by 5 institutions, including UCSD, Dartmouth College, The Scripps Research Institute, the University of Arizona and the University of Missouri Columbia, with the largest amount of funding coming to UCSD ($1.7 Million).

The research will also focus on genes that control uptake of toxic heavy metals into plants. Non-agricultural plants are viewed as a promising cost effective means to remediate metal contaminated sites, by taking up toxic metals from soils and waters via their root systems. This clean up process is called bioremediation. In order to improve the use of plants as "green" environmental clean up tools additional genes need to be found that maximize the metal accumulation into plants. The NSF-funded genome project will search for new genes that will aid in uptake and bioremediation of toxic metals.

The genome project will also be devoted to setting up a bioinformatic web data base that will be accessible to outside users and the public, for use of the newly found knowledge. Dr. Michael Gribskov, Associate Professor in Residence in the Biology Division at UCSD, is a co-investigator in the team to set up these data bases.

                                                Suresh Subramani
                                                Interim Associate Dean
                                                Division of Biology