Significant step towards terminator technology
Comment from Dr. Jonathan Latham of The Bioscience Resource Project
A paper just out in Nature (Feb 28 - details below) that seems to have been missed appears to be a significant step towards terminator technology and controlling seed production. There is also a commentary in Nature (details below) which claims that the usefulness of this research is in revolutionising agriculture by bypassing the inconvenience and expense of breeding F1 hybrids. The fact that you can anyway breed heterosis (the name given to the vigour advantage of F1 hybrids) permanently into a crop cultivar if you want to and the fact that Nature filed this under the heading of 'Biotechnology' is a clue that the really revolutionary significance of this research is not in making F1 hybrids redundant but in potentially conferring the opportunity to control plant fertility. It is in principle only a few short steps from identifying a plant gene that controls meiosis (ie the research in this paper) to inserting an inducible gene that controls meiosis into your favourite crop.
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The paper - Gamete formation without meiosis in Arabidopsis Maruthachalam Ravi, Mohan P. A. Marimuthu & Imran Siddiqi Nature, Vol 451 / 28 February 2008 / doi:10.1038/nature06557
The commentary - BIOTECHNOLOGY: A hold on plant meiosis Peter J. van Dijk The process of meiosis involves genetic shuffling that dilutes the desirable traits of sexually reproducing crops. Identification of a mutation in which shuffling does not occur is a step forward for plant breeders.
Nature / Vol 451/ 28 February 2008 / pp. 1063 and 1065