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Biochemist to Study How Crops Can Increase Protein Production


UCR Biochemist to Study How Crops Can Increase Protein Production

Grant from National Science Foundation to support three-year study

(April 10, 2009)

Daniel Gallie, a professor of biochemistry at UC Riverside, observes <i>Arabidopsis</i> plants in a lab.  Photo credit: Gallie lab, UC Riverside. (Additional images below.)Enlarge

Daniel Gallie, a professor of biochemistry at UC Riverside, observes Arabidopsis plants in a lab. Photo credit: Gallie lab, UC Riverside. (Additional images below.)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The small flowering plant Arabidopsis is widely used in laboratories as a model organism in plant biology.

A member of the mustard family, Arabidopsis offers researchers several advantages such as a completely sequenced genome, a compact size, a life-cycle of about only six weeks from seed to seed, easy cultivation and high seed production.

Now Daniel Gallie, a professor of biochemistry at UC Riverside, has received a three-year grant of nearly $1.75 million from the National Science Foundation to study how each Arabidopsis gene is converted into protein and how plants control this process.

The research can help improve protein production in crops. Protein-rich crops improve the diet of humans directly and promote livestock productivity for a growing world population. Besides their nutritional advantages, these crops also reduce the environmental impact of livestock production by potentially reducing the acreage required for agriculture.

“Understanding how most genes, out of the more than 25,000 genes in Arabidopsis, are converted into protein will be important in understanding how plants control protein synthesis,” Gallie said. “This knowledge is essential in improving protein production in crops.”

With the advent of the complete sequence of the genome of Arabidopsis and other plant species, researchers are now in a position of being able to understand how every gene in an organism is converted into protein.

“This, in conjunction with the development of other recent technologies, such as the ability to identify mutants in most genes as well as to analyze virtually all genes in Arabidopsis on a chip no larger than a fingertip, makes such a study possible for the first time,” Gallie said.

He explained that the process of protein production involves many steps and requires multiple factors to carry out the synthesis.

“Our approach will identify which steps and which factors are involved for every gene,” he said.

Gallie is the principal investigator of the National Science Foundation grant. UCR will manage the multi-investigator project that also involves researchers at three other universities: The University of Texas at Austin; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and the University of Arizona.

UCR has received $569,681 from the National Science Foundation for the first year of Gallie’s research project. Funding in subsequent years ($581,775 in 2010 and $592,854 in 2011) is contingent on the availability of funds and scientific progress.

A portion of the grant will support graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in Gallie’s lab.

Gallie received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from UC Davis in 1985. He joined UCR in 1990 after completing postdoctoral appointments at the John Innes Institute, United Kingdom, and Stanford University, Calif. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Association of Plant Physiologists as well as the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

He has published more than 100 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
The <i>Arabidopsis</i> plant. Photo credit: Gallie lab, UC Riverside.Enlarge

The Arabidopsis plant. Photo credit: Gallie lab, UC Riverside.

Daniel Gallie is a professor of biochemistry at UC Riverside. Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

Daniel Gallie is a professor of biochemistry at UC Riverside. Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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