Chinese Geneticists to Make Breakthroughs in Research

Chinese geneticists are confident that they will make another two breakthroughs within one year as they quicken their pace of genome research.

The first one is finishing their share of work on the international Human Genome Project (HGP) by June 2001, two years ahead of schedule.

The second one is to make China the first country in the world to decode the super hybrid rice genome which is believed to ensure China's leading position in hybrid rice research and production.

Launched in 1990 by the United States, HGP aims to map out the sequence of all three billion nucleotide pairs, which will help decode the structure and function of the 100,000 genes in the human body and thus reveal a mass of information on human genetics.

Chinese geneticists got involved in the project last September, taking on the sequencing of one percent of the human genome and making China the sixth country to participate in HGP after the United States, Britain, Japan, France and Germany.

By the end of last April, scientists from the Humane Genome Center of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and the National Human Genome Center in Northern and Southern China had mapped out the 30 million base pairs on the No.3 chromosome.

Conducted simultaneously with HGP, the super hybrid rice genome project is of special significance to China, the largest rice producer in the world. Chinese scientist Yuan Longping, the inventor of hybrid rice, has developed numerous strains of high-yield hybrid rice over the years. The best of them is super hybrid rice, with long-grained non-glutinous rice as its parent.

Chinese scientists will map out the rice genome, which has 4.3 billion base pairs, one-seventh of that of the human genome.

Zhu Lihuang, director of the CAS Laboratory of Biological Engineering, said that the project aims to discover what makes super hybrid rice so highly productive.

He explained that the scientists will achieve this by sequencing the super hybrid rice genome and conducting comparative genome research.

The goal is to obtain a genome map of the rice, determine the specific gene carried by the Chinese hybrid rice that is responsible for its productivity, and use it to build a gene base for hybrid rice.

According to Zhu, since the rice genome is the smallest and most basic among those of crops, the project will also improve the understanding of genomes of grain, corm and other corps, and will therefore help launch genetic research on all the arable crops.

Yuan Longping, father of hybrid rice in China, said, "The super hybrid rice genome project is very significant. It is an effective way to raise productivity by combining crossbreeding technology and genetic engineering."

He said that other breeding technologies, including the most advanced genetic engineering, all end up focusing on hybridization while the further improvement of breeding technology will rely on progress of biological technologies.

According to Yuan, the rice genome project will help Chinese scientists to apply molecular breeding technology to crossbreeding.

It is learned that Chinese scientists hope to start molecular breeding research in three to five


(Beijing Review)

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