Towards the domestication of a wild rice relative, Microlaena stipoides using large scale gene sequencing

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Malory, S, Shapter, FM, Chivers, IH & Henry, RJ 2010, 'Towards the domestication of a wild rice relative, Microlaena stipoides using large scale gene sequencing', paper presented to the OzBio 2010 The molecules of life: from discovery to biotechnology, Melbourne, Vic., 26 September - 1 October.


Microlaena stipoides, commonly known as weeping grass, is a distant relative of rice. It is a drought, frost and shade tolerant perennial evergreen plant and produces seeds similar to rice. M. stipoides can be used for grain production and additionally it can be grazed as a pasture. This species responds well to nitrogen application and also regular irrigation, making commercial production possible and making it a target for domestication. Extensive sequencing and comparative mapping has established a high degree of conservation between rice and other grasses, allowing the isolation of the corresponding homologues of important rice genes in other grasses. In this study the rice genome sequence is being used for comparison with corresponding genes in M. stipoides. A high range of variability occurs within the natural populations for domestication traits and this can be harnessed for selective breeding programs. An induced mutation population has also been established to capture desired traits for crop improvement. High-throughput next generation sequencing using the Illumina Genome Analyser IIx is being used to discover single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in M. stipoides which can be used in establishing domesticated lines of M. stipoides. Once domesticated, M. stipoides will become a new cereal crop for commercial food production. This technique can also be utilised for other wild grasses to screen for desirable domestication traits and possibly to create new crops for food consumption.