Soy database provides access to genetic info

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gene, Ars

US government scientists have launched a new online database that
allows for the exploration of the soybean's genetic makeup, which
makes it possible to compare current soybean genetic maps.

The website, available here​, is the new interface to SoyBase, a plant-genetic database established in 1993 by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

According to ARS computational biologist Rex Nelson, who helped design the new "toolbox"​ , this database offers easier remote access to information in SoyBase, as well as the use of complex queries to retrieve sets of related data.

Nelson, who is in the ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit (CICGRU) at Ames, Iowa, said that the toolbox's easy linkage with other databases makes it easier to combine information from other databases into a single report.

"This helps researchers to quickly find genomic sequences associated with particular agronomic traits of interest. Ultimately, it can help make possible the development of varieties containing superior traits,"​ said the ARS.

Used extensively in food formulations and enjoying growing popularity on the back of claimed health benefits, today soybean oil, together with palm oil, accounts for over half of all oil consumed in the world: but production vulnerability means soy prices can fluctuate dramatically.

As more work is conducted on the genetic makeup of soy, scientists hope knowledge gained can be used to reduce the risk to crop supplies.

Last year, a team of researchers led by Purdue University plant geneticist Scott Jackson received $4.5 million to sequence one of the world's leading edible oil sources.

And Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, Monsanto and the ARS also formed a triple alliance to draw up a genetic map of the soybean.

Rice was the first crop to be almost fully genetically sequenced, with the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project last year completing the sequence for the genome, which was found to consist of around 400 million DNA bases, holding 37,544 genes on rice's 12 chromosomes.

And in June 2005, US scientists at Kansas State University kicked off a new project to sequence the common (hexaploid) wheat genome.

Corn is another crop that has been extensively researched with the aim of understanding its genetic code. Work has already been conducted at the Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and at the University of Arizona.

And earlier this year, the USDA announced a $5m project aimed at identifying and improving the genetic make-up of barley.

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