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The past 50 years has been the greatest era of plant science discovery, and most of the discoveries have emerged from or been facilitated by our knowledge of plant chromosomes. At last we have descriptive and mechanistic outlines of the information in chromosomes that programs plant life. We had almost no such information 50 years ago when few had isolated DNA from any plant species. The important features of genes have been revealed through whole genome comparative genomics and testing of variants using transgenesis. Progress has been enabled by the development of technologies that had to be invented and then become widely available. Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and rice (Oryza sativa) have played extraordinary roles as model species. Unexpected evolutionary dramas were uncovered when learning that chromosomes have to manage constantly the vast numbers of potentially mutagenic families of transposons and other repeated sequences. The chromatin-based transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that co-evolved to manage the evolutionary drama as well as gene expression and 3-D nuclear architecture have been elucidated these past 20 years. This perspective traces some of the major developments with which I have become particularly familiar while seeking ways to improve crop plants. I draw some conclusions from this look-back over 50 years during which the scientific community has (i) exposed how chromosomes guard, readout, control, recombine, and transmit information that programs plant species, large and small, weed and crop, and (ii) modified the information in chromosomes for the purposes of genetic, physiological, and developmental analyses and plant improvement. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists.


Richard B Flavell. Perspective: 50 years of plant chromosome biology. Plant physiology. 2021 Apr 02;185(3):731-753

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PMID: 33604616

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