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Genomic Science Program

2010 Awardee

The Role of Small RNA in Biomass Deposition and Perenniality in Andropogoneae Feedstocks

INVESTIGATORS: Hudson, M.E., Alabady, M.S., Moose S.P.

INSTITUTION: University of Illinois

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The tissues and organs of next-generation biofuel crops that provide biomass for energy production are primarily composed of lignin and cellulose. The shape and size of these tissues and organs, and the synthesis of cellulose and lignin within them, are controlled at the level of gene expression. In this project, we will look at the role of the newly discovered small RNA molecules in regulating the expression of genes controlling the size, shape and composition of biofuel crops. We will focus on the Miscanthus species, which have been shown to have very high potential biomass yields. We will also investigate other biomass crops including switchgrass and Prairie Cordgrass.

OBJECTIVES: We have already shown that a large number of new small RNA species are expressed in Miscanthus. We will investigate the extent to which these species target genes known to be involved in biomass production, and how much they contribute to development and variability of biomass. In particular, we will identify small RNA elements that regulate deposition of the cell wall of cells in the plant stem, a critical process in biomass production. We will also investigate the involvement of small RNA in processes that underlie traits critical to regional biomass production, for example flowering and maturity time and overwintering.

APPROACH: By using the latest procedures and equipment designed for genome sequencing, it is possible to profile the expression of all the small RNA in any given plant tissue as well as all the genes that are controlled by the small RNA molecules. We will apply this technology to the tissues critical to biomass production, focusing on the stem and rhizome tissues of Miscanthus . We will confirm the importance of the small RNA regulation on cellulose and lignin biosynthesis using genetic and biotechnology approaches, and by profiling the metabolic components of the plant cells during the experiment.

Name: Hudson, M.
Phone: 217-244-8096
Fax: 217-333-8046



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