Plant researchers appear to be catching up with the efforts of those scientists in the better-funded and more visible Human Genome Project. With a critical mass of information forming on the genome of a model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, including libraries of gene sequences and a number of important chromosome maps, molecular biologists working with plants are at the threshold of important breakthroughs on previously intractable problems. They are on the brink of understanding the mechanisms of disease resistance and of creating plants that produce novel substances like biodegradable plastics.

Chris Somerville, a molecular biologist with the Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University, is out on that leading edge. He coauthored a recent paper in Science (V. Arondel, et al., 258: 1353, 1992), which was something of a breakthrough because it demonstrated the power of the currently available genetic maps and libraries.

"We demonstrated that you could isolate a gene...

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