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Nonviable Seeds May Contain Research-Quality DNA

Date:
August 28, 2008
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Agricultural Research Service scientists have ways of making seeds talk. They have demonstrated that seeds can reveal genetic information even after they've lost viability, which is the ability to germinate. The research has significant implications for seed bank management.

Seeds can still reveal genetic information even after they will no longer germinate, offering the hope of obtaining usable DNA even from 100-year-old seeds.
Credit: Photo by Stephen Ausmus

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Fort Collins, Colo., have ways of making seeds talk. They have demonstrated that seeds can reveal genetic information even after they've lost viability, which is the ability to germinate. The research has significant implications for seed bank management.

The research was conducted by plant physiologist Christina Walters, plant physiologist Gayle M. Volk and plant geneticist Christopher M. Richards at the ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) in Fort Collins, Colo.

Like all genebanks, the NCGRP stores genetic materials that researchers can use to study the nature, function and evolution of genes. All seeds lose viability in storage, however, and samples that can no longer germinate are often discarded. But new research shows that even low-viability seeds can contain research-quality DNA.

The ARS scientists examined three sets of seeds, ranging in age from one year to 135 years. They were able to extract usable DNA from all of the seeds—even the oldest set, which had been stored in a Georgia attic since the Civil War.

This is significant because donated collections, such as the Civil War seeds used in this study, are sometimes infested with microbes that contain enzymes capable of degrading the seeds' DNA. Fortunately, genetic materials at the NCGRP are stored under optimal conditions, and are at lower risk for degradation.

Because the oldest seeds in this study are no longer capable of germinating, the scientists have no means of measuring their phenotypes, or observable genetic traits. However, stable DNA enables researchers to study the parent plants' genetic material and uncover information about their genetic diversity.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Laura McGinnis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Nonviable Seeds May Contain Research-Quality DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825201928.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2008, August 28). Nonviable Seeds May Contain Research-Quality DNA. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825201928.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Nonviable Seeds May Contain Research-Quality DNA." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825201928.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

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