Interdisciplinary consortium coordinating food and energy security research using the model system Brachypodium

Brachypodium distachyon (brachy) has emerged as a cornerstone for research pertaining to key energy and food crops as well as biomass processing. Work in these areas is a point of interest in no less than twelve labs at UMass Amherst. This ensemble of laboratories comprises our Brachy Consortium, where we collaborate to advance plant and microbial science.

We have several research themes and participating faculty to provide opportunities to conduct research using brachy as a model system.

Two papers published in PLoS ONE describe Brachypodium distachyon stem anatomy and growth rhythms

As an MCB graduate student in the Hazen Lab, Dominick Matos made several key discoveries. First he described the development of stem internodes. This is a key region of energy crops that accounts for a majority of the harvestable biomass. While the arrangement of vascular bundles varies among grasses, the anatomy of the vascular bundles themselves is very similar. By making observations over time, it was noted that the vascular bundles are the first to mature followed by non-vascular fiber cells. The results of these studies are described in PLoS ONE. Dominick and colleagues also measured stem and leaf development within the course of a day. Here they developed a time lapse imaging systems and measure leaf length under various conditions. Unlike arabidopsis and other dicots, B. distachyon did not exhibit circadian clock or photo cycles regulated growth. These results suggest that grasses have a very different mechanism for regulating time of day specific growth. The results of these studies are described in PLoS ONE.

International Brachypodium conference in Modena Italy demonstrates great utility of the research model

Following the prelude workshop in 2011 at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Versailles France, the 1st International Brachypodium Conference was held in the hometown of Enzo Ferrari in Modena Italy. Scientists from nineteen countries gathered - and at one point evacuated due to an earthquake - to discuss research progress in the genus Brachypodium. Former UMass postdoc Karen Sanguinet, now at Iwate University, communicated her root hairless mutant. Graduate student Pubudu Handakumbura described the functional characterization of a MYB transcription factor that activates cell wall thickening. Among others, Sam Hazen detailed behavior in brachy that is clearly distinct from that of arabidopsis and other dicots. Several groups professed the usefulnes of the model to study cereal pathogens and other attributes of growth and development. Also noteworthy is the development of B. sylvaticum as a to to study perennialism.

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