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N.C. State researchers map tobacco genome

Posted June 18, 2008 3:16 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2008 11:41 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina State University scientists have completed a nearly five-year, $17.6 million effort to map the genome of tobacco.

With completion of the Tobacco Genome Initiative, which Philip Morris USA funded, the genetic information that makes a tobacco plant a tobacco plant will be made available to the public, said Charles Opperman, plant pathology professor and co-director of the project.

Scientists in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State determined the sequence of nucleotides in the gene space of tobacco, the part of the tobacco genome that contains genes and genetic coding that controls genes. Opperman said the tobacco genome contains about 4.5 billion bases – 1.5 times the size of the human genome – but only 20 percent to 25 percent of a tobacco plant’s genome is considered gene space.

Tobacco’s genetic blueprint should be particularly useful in studies of crops like tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, which like tobacco, are solanaceous plants and are similar genetically.

The genetic information will be available online through the National Institutes of Health National Center for Biotechnology Information GenBank and an N.C. State Web site.