James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

February 4, 2010

Thanks Brassica oleracea

Filed under: Campus Life — Tags: , , , — James @ 11:01 am

My claim to 15 seconds of fame?

If you see a guy holding this stalk of brussels sprouts reciting the definition of qPCR in a promotional video from Agilent, it just might be me. (How many biologists carrying telegenic vegetables are they likely to find on campus? 😉 )

Edit: For the record, qPCR is a technique used to estimate the relative proportions of different DNA sequences in a sample. Perhaps most commonly, this is used to measure how strongly different genes are expressed. (Isolate RNA from a tissue, reverse transcribe it into DNA and measure how abundant your the sequence of your favorite gene is in the same.) When a plant needs more of a protein (say one that helps defend against fungal infection), it will produce more RNA copies of that gene’s sequence, each of which can be used over and over as a blueprint for ribosomes to make more copies of that particular protein. The acronym itself stands for quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction.Which isn’t the most coherent explanation of a molecular biological technique I’ve ever written, but it has been a long day.

January 26, 2010

“New” Cruciferous Vegetables

Filed under: food,Genetics,Plant breeding,Plants — Tags: , , , , — James @ 7:02 pm

A stalk of brussels sprouts photo credit: cbmd, flickr (click for photo in original context)

Last week Greg over at Pie-ence was talking about the amazing variety of vegetable crops breed out of a handful of species within the genus Brassica, specifically Brassica rapa and Brassica oleracea.* I’m referring to these as cruciferous vegetables, which is actually a wider category including all the vegetables within the mustard family of plants (scientifically this is called the Brassicaceae). But one of the cool things about having so many kinds of vegetables within the same couple of species is that, because they’re the same species, they can still be interbreed with each other to create “new”** vegetables. (more…)

Powered by WordPress