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Arabidopsis: Map Makers of the Plant Kingdom

NSF Helps Launch the New Biology

Arabidopsis began to intrigue not only plant biologists, but also scientists who formerly specialized in bacteria or fruit flies. As laboratories around the world undertook Arabidopsis projects, the stock of available mutants grew and new techniques were developed for gene cloning. Scientists began making breakthrough discoveries. And NSF undertook to advance Arabidopsis research even more rapidly—first through a series of workshops and then by launching a long-range plan in 1990 for the Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis thaliana Genome Research Project. The project's steering committee, made up of scientists from eight countries, announced a collaborative agreement within the international community to pursue the goal of understanding the physiology, biochemistry, and growth and developmental processes of the flowering plant at the molecular level.

"I see the NSF program people as scientific collaborators," said Chris Somerville, director of the Plant Biology Department at Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, California, and with Elliot Meyerowitz, co-author of the leading research compendium on Arabidopsis. "[NSF] sensed something happening in the community that the individual scientist didn't necessarily appreciate fully. By bringing a few of us together, they helped us develop our vision. They played a catalytic role. They observed what was going on and made a good judgment about what it meant. Once we began discussing it, we began to see what we could do collectively."

In the years since the launch of the multinational project, the Arabidopsis research community has become a worldwide network of organizations and individuals. Their continued willingness to share information helps keep the project energized and the path cleared for new discoveries. With funding from NSF and other federal agencies, as well as governments in other countries, biological resource centers have been established around the world to make seeds of mutant strains—one scientist called them "starter kits"—available to laboratories that want to study them. Between 1992 and the summer of 2000, the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center at Ohio State University, which shares responsibility with a British center for requests throughout the world, shipped 299,000 seed samples and 94,000 DNA samples. In the spirit of openness and collaboration encouraged by a multinational steering committee, hundreds of Arabidopsis researchers worldwide regularly make deposits of new seed lines and DNA libraries into the centers.

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A Rose is a Rose is a Mustard Weed
Inside the Little Green Factories
NSF Helps Launch th New Biology
Accelerating the Pace
Why Learn About Arabidopsis?
How to Make a Flower
Golden Age of Discovery
Communication...Fusted with the Ideas and Results of Others
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