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Image of the Week: Arabidopsis thaliana

16 May, 2014

B0008270 Confocal micrograph of Arabidopsis thaliana seedling

Image of the Week continues its series looking at some of the model organisms that have helped contribute to our knowledge of genetics and drug discovery. This week Deborah-Fay Ndhlovu looks at Arabidopsis thaliana and why it’s important for plant research.

We know plants as organisms that provide oxygen and are a source of food to humans and animals. But some plants have an importance to us that extends past those more commonly appreciated functions.

Take the Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant that is related to broccoli and cauliflower, which is used as a model organism for plant research. In this image we see the plant’s seedlings, stained with propidium iodide, through a confocal microscope.

The plant is small in size, is short-lived and grows very quickly, which has made it the most widely studied plant with over 11,000 scientists from across the globe using it for experiments.

Arabidopsis was the first plant to have its genome sequenced. The Arabidopsis Genome Initiative (AGI) sequenced the complete genetic material of the plant and published its results in the journal Nature in 2000. The development led to research seeking to discover the differences or similarities between Arabidopsis genes and those of other plants.

Many genes in rice have been found to be similar to those of Arabidopsis allowing that experiments conducted in the plant to help interpret the biochemical functions of rice genes. The Arabidopsis thaliana shows there is more to a plant that its aesthetic value.

Image credit: Fernan Federici & Jim Haseloff, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

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