Research Report '04
 MU Office of Research Home page. Year In Review. Technology Development. Sponsored Research. Instruction & Public Service. 2003 & Beyond.

Annual Report 2004 Query Tool

Investigators Continue on Path to 'Higher Level of Excellence'

Long Strands in Small Packages

New Insights Into an Old Reaction

Developed for Dogs, New 'Tissue Scaffolds' Offer Hope for Hobbled Humans

Deaton Named MU Chancellor

Gifts Revitalize Red Campus Research

Student Scholars Gain Smart New Space

Five MU Faculty Named AAAS Fellows

Expenditures and Awards

Long Strands in Small Packages

By understanding how strands of DNA are "packaged" within the nuclei of cells, the world's scientists hope to gain new insights into how genes are expressed, or turned on and off, during the physical development of living things.

Karen Cone, an MU associate professor of biological sciences who played a key role in mapping the maize genome, is one of the most prominent of these researchers. Last fall she received $6.6 million from the National Science Foundation to study the function of 150 to 200 genes involved in maize's DNA packaging. It was the largest single grant awarded in the NSF's $66-million plant genome research program.

Cone will collaborate with researchers at five other universities. The goal is to help breeders produce better plants and farmers better crops.

"If we discover how plant DNA packaging controls gene expression, then we will be able to manipulate the outcomes of genetic experiments and predict how genes get turned on and off in the right places at the right times in plant development," Cone says. "Then we can help plant breeders figure out how to take advantage of what we have learned about DNA packaging and the relationship it has to gene activity."

Potential benefits will not be limited to corn cultivation; the research could help people too.

"Our results might eventually have an impact on human disease where a defect in DNA packaging is the root of the problem," Cone says. "All eukaryotic organisms with a nucleus package [their] DNA in basically the same way."    

Eukaryotes are characterized by cells that have a discrete nucleus containing genetic material and have evolved as a group to include humans and all other animals. The collaborative aspect of the NSF research is valuable, she says, because it avoids duplication of effort and can speed results.

"There is no way we could do all of these experiments by ourselves; it would take 10 years to try to do what we're trying to accomplish in four," Cone says. "It is better to team up and take advantage of people's collective experience and expertise."

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