Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Asexual reproduction in plants: CCMB gains global leadership

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has achieved global leadership on asexual plant reproduction after if identified a gene that holds the hybrid vigour in tact even after generations.

Hybrid plants lose their vigour in the subsequent generation forcing farmers to purchase fresh hybrid seeds from multinational companies. The CCMB has identified a gene that promotes asexual reproduction or apomixis in plants. Since sexual genes are not involved in reproduction, the plant continues to hold its hybrid vigour. This in other words means higher yields season after season without the need for purchasing fresh stocks of seeds.

According to CCMB director Dr Mohan Rao, apomixis occurs naturally in certain grasses but the CCMB has identified a gene for the process in Arabidopsis, member of the mustard family. "The CCMB holds the global leadership on apomixis gene technology," he said.

It has been a long cherished dream of botanists to find out the secrets of apomixis, that could help in making food grains yielding plants to reproduce by themselves without losing the hybrid vigour. The CCMB has taken a lead in this direction.

Apomixis is an asexual type of reproduction in which the plant embryos grow from egg cells without being fertilised by pollen. It leads to populations that are genetically uniform maternal clones. The transfer of apomixis to crop plants holds great promise in plant breeding for fixation of heterozygosity and hybrid vigour because it would allow the propagation of hybrids over successive generations.

The CCMB team has shown that alteration of a single gene in a sexual plant can bring about functional apomeiosis, a major component of apomixis.

Earlier, the CCMB celebrated its foundation day in which noted ophthalmologist Dr Gullapalli N Rao delivered a lecture on research and relevance to communities. He said eye cancer in children had emerged as a major problem in India, with the country having the highest cases of eye cancer in children in the world.

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