Biological research has been transformed by the new science of genomics. Genomics is a powerful set of tools for examining all the genes or proteins in a cell simultaneously. Using genomics, scientists dissect the interrelationships among genetic networks and explore the molecular bases of biological processes.
My colleagues and I use genomics to understand the genetic organization of legumes, the plant family that includes crops like soybean, pea, and alfalfa. A key starting point toward our goal is sequencing the complete genome of a simple model legume known as Medicago truncatula. With this information, we are working to understand the molecular evolution that has taken place over millions of years and resulted in the modern crops.
Of special interest to us are the genes responsible plant interactions with microbes. There are two classes of genes we target: those that promote symbiosis with beneficial microbes and others that help to defend against disease pathogens. Many of these genes are members of large gene families that produce fascinating and important protein products. Understanding the molecular evolution and genomic organization of plant-microbe interactions is key to utilizing genetic knowledge to promote sustainable agricultural systems.
Ameline-Torregrosa C, Wang BB, Denny RL, O’Bleness M, Despande S, Zhu H, Roe B, Young ND, Cannon SB (2008) Identification and characterization of NBS-LRR encoded genes in the model plant Medicago truncatula. Plant Physiology 146: 5-21.
Ashfield T, Egan AN, Pfeil BE, Chen NWG, Podicheti R, Ratnaparkhe MB, Ameline-Torregrosa C, Denny R, Cannon S, Doyle JJ, Geffroy V, Roe BA, Saghai Maroof MA, Young ND, Innes RW (2012) The impact of polyploidy on the evolution of a complex NB-LRR resistance gene cluster in soybean. Plant Physiology 159: 344-354.
Branca A, Paape T, Zhou P, Briskine R, Farmer AD, Mudge J, Bharti AK, Woodward JE, May GD, Gentzbittel L, Ben C, Denny R, Sadowsky MJ, Ronfort J, Bataillon T, Young ND, Tiffin P (2011) Whole-genome nucleotide diversity, recombination, and linkage-disequilibrium in the model legume Medicago truncatula. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA 108: E864-870.
Cannon SB, Sterck L, Rombauts S, Sato S, Cheung F, Gouzy JP, Wang X, Mudge J, Vasdewani J, Schiex T, Spannagl M, Monaghan E, Nicholson C, Humphray SJ, Schoof H, Mayer KFX, Rogers J, Quétier F, Oldroyd GE, Debellé F, Cook DR, Roe BA, Town CD, Tabata S, Vandepeer Y, Young ND (2006) Legume evolution viewed through the Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus genomes. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA 103: 14959-14964.
Young ND, Debellé F, Oldroyd GE, Geurts R, Cannon SB, Udvardi MK, Benedito VA, Mayer KFX, Gouzy J, Schoof H, et al. (2011) The Medicago genome provides insight into the evolution of rhizobial symbioses. Nature 480: 520-524.
Young ND, Bharti AK (2012) Genome-enabled insights into legume biology. Annual Review of Plant Biology 63: 283-305.
Young ND, Udvardi M (2009) Translating Medicago truncatula genomics to crop legumes. Current Opinions in Plant Biology 12: 193-201.