Genomics research in perennial crops is quickly gaining momentum. Washington produces some of the best fruit crops globally, and WSU, with its expertise in horticultural genomics, is uniquely positioned to advance fruit improvement.
The importance of being . . . green?
Development of a fruit is accompanied by changes in pigment and several secondary metabolic processes are in full swing at this transitional phase. Organelles, namely chloroplast and mitochondria, are the major centers of activity during this period. Dr. Dhingra is working to identify and functionally characterize organelle-targeted genes in fruits in a developmental context. The researchers hope the knowledge gained from this research will help them to discover specific key players in metabolic processes related to fruit’s nutritional qualities. Green light signaling is another research project pursued through this program.
Green light is considered to be a benign component of the light spectrum. Researchers have recently demonstrated that plants do not ignore this signal and adjust the plastid transcriptome, especially during early development. They are interested in dissecting the signal transduction pathway by first identifying specific DNA elements that respond to the green signal.
Recently, researchers developed a simple, cost-effective, time saving method for rapid sequencing of chloroplast genomes. That method provides hands-on training to horticulture undergraduate students, exciting them about genomics research. The long-term goal is to integrate a bioinformatics component to establish a portal for comparative sequencing of chloroplast and other small genomes.