Facts about Arabidopsis Thaliana

Planetwide facts

Arabidopsis thaliana belongs to the Brassicacae  family (the same as broccoli and cabbage) and grows as a rosette with a diameter ranging from 2 to 5 cm, from which a flower stem is produced that can reach 70 cm. It grows as a spontaneous plant in temperate climates of Europe, Asia and North Africa and has also been introduced in the Americas and Australia.

Arabidopsis Thaliana is native to European countries, Asia and North Africa. However, its presence throughout the world has progressively increased, thanks to its scientific significance. In countries like Spain, there are rural populations where the plant is in abundance. However, the exact location of the same is unknown, since in this way they avoid being invaded by scientists who seek to take samples, destroying natural populations.

For about 30 years, it has been used as a model organism in research, as evidenced by the dizzying increase in scientific publications concerning Arabidopsis. For example, in 2008 alone, more than 3,800 articles on Arabdidopsis were added to the PubMed scientific publications platform http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) against only 7 publications in 1979 and 65 of all previous years combined. No other plant can keep up with it! By the way, we must not forget that it is the first ever plant whose genome has been completely sequenced (The Arabidopsis Genome Initiative, 2000).

 

This fact placed it ahead of other models of importance in agriculture such as tomatoes or corn. In its natural environment, this species that generates so much desire for knowledge is an herb like so many others. However, it is a plant of vital importance within the scientific field, since it has certain properties that make it a reference plant, in all the research that is done about plants.

History of Arabidopsis thaliana as a research organism.

Arabidopsis Thaliana - planetwide directory

Arabidopsis thaliana was discovered by Johannes Thal (hence, thaliana) in the Harz mountains in the sixteenth century, though he called it Pilosella siliquosa (and it has gone through a number of name changes since). The earliest report of a mutant (that I know of) was in 1873 (by A. Braun). F. Laibach first summarized the potential of Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism for genetics in 1943 – he did some work on it much earlier though, publishing its correct chromosome number in 1907. The first collection of induced mutants was made by Laibach’s student E. Reinholz. Her thesis was submitted in 1945, the work published in 1947. Langridge played an important role in establishing the properties and utility of the organism for laboratory studies in the 1950s, as did Rédei and others (such as J.H. van der Veen in the Netherlands, J. Veleminsky in Czechoslovakia and G. Röbbelen in Germany) in the 1960s. One of Rédei’s many important contributions was to write scholarly reviews on Arabidopsis, a particularly thorough one is in Bibliographica Genetica vol 20, No. 2, 1970, pp. 1- 151. He wrote a more easily found one in Ann. Rev. Genet. (1975) vol. 9,111-127. Both go through some of the early history of the use of Arabidopsis in the laboratory, though the longer 1970 one has all the details.”

what makes it so popular among labs all over the world?

de: Die Ackerschmalwand Arabidopsis thaliana
en: The common thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana

It has a really small genome! Only 5 chromosomes (125 million bases and just over 25,000 genes), making genetic analyzes relatively simple compared to other plants, whose genome is more extensive and complex. Suffice it to say that the tomato has 12, rice 24, onion 16. Arabidopsis is diploid, making the identification of recessive traits much less arduous than in polyploid plants (ie with a double, triple, quadruple and so on) such as strawberry (octoploid), potato (tetraploid) and wheat (tetra- and hexaploid). It is no coincidence, therefore, that the first plant was subjected to complete sequencing, which among other things found the reason for such a small genome in the scarce presence of repeated DNA sequences.

Arabidopsis has a very short life cycle. Most of the ecotypes come to flowering from six to eight weeks after sowing. Arabidopsis growth is not seasonal so it is possible to have more generations in a year. This is gold  for geneticists, who can cross-breed Arabidopsis 4 or 5 times a year for the creation of new generations for genetic analysis.

 

It produces many seeds, thousands per plant and reproduces by self-pollination. This results in the fact that plants have a very high homozygosity level. This means that if a researcher selects an interesting plant, he can preserve it indefinitely, simply by letting it self-pollinate and collecting its seeds, being certain that plants that are genetically identical to that mother will be born from them.

Arabidopsis genes can be very useful when recognizing traits of great agronomic importance . These genes can be separated and included in productive plants, using genetic engineering mechanisms , likewise, the sequences can also be used for the recognition of these genes in agricultural plants and continue them through the molecular markers, making possible their incursion into crops developed by traditional techniques.

Other main features that make it a model plant are:

  • Small size and simple growth requirements, being easily cultivable;
  • Short life cycle;
  • Production of a high number of seeds;
  • High natural variety;
  • Production of fertile hybrids;
  • Reduced number of chromosomes;
  • Easily transformable;
  • Availability of many genetic and genomic methods and resources.

Characteristic and Appearance

It is a plant that can measure between ten and thirty centimeters in height without including the root. At the base it has a rosette of broad leaves while on the stem the leaves are thinner and elongated. The flowers are very small and hermaphroditic (with male and female reproductive organs) of white color that are grouped forming small groups of flowers or inflorescences. The fruit is a silicua a couple of centimeters long and two millimeters wide, which can contain about thirty seeds. These are dispersed through the wind when the mature silicua is opened.

Arabidopsis has a very short life cycle. Most of the ecotypes come to flowering from six to eight weeks after sowing although in the laboratory it can be completed in a period of between six to eight weeks. In temperate climates this plant blooms between the months of February and June. The flower is the reproductive organ and contains the stamens (male apparatus) and the carpels (female apparatus). The pollen grain is attached to the ovule, located in the ovary, and the seed results from fertilization. When the fruit is ready, the seeds are opened and dispersed; they reach the ground and remain dormant until the environmental conditions are adequate for germination, giving rise to a new plant.

 Arabidopsis growth is not seasonal so it is possible to have more generations in a year. This is gold  for geneticists, who can cross-breed Arabidopsis 4 or 5 times a year for the creation of new generations for genetic analysis.

 

It produces many seeds, thousands per plant and reproduces by self-pollination. This results in the fact that plants have a very high homozygosity level. This means that if a researcher selects an interesting plant, he can preserve it indefinitely, simply by letting it self-pollinate and collecting its seeds, being certain that plants that are genetically identical to that mother will be born from them.

Natural varieties

Arabidopsis is a cosmopolitan plant that is distributed in all the continents, although it is not abundant in Asia and Africa, and scarce in some regions of America. In warm and temperate climates, it is found in meadows, road margins or abandoned lands. Hundreds of varieties have been identified with differences in shape, growth or flowering time, as an adaptation to environmental conditions. Some of them receive the category of ecotype, a genetic and ecological subdivision of the species by environmental adaptation in local conditions.

Relatives and class

Share family with a wide range of agricultural interest species such as cabbage ( Brassica oleracea ), turnip ( Brassica napus ) or radish ( Raphanus sativus ) and culinary such as mustard ( Brassica campestris ), white mustard ( Sinapis alba ) and the black one ( Brassica nigra ). It is also related to the arugula ( Eruca vesicaria ), just to cite some examples of the large Brasiliaceae family to which Arabidopsis thaliana belongs . Within the Arabidopsis genus , 9 species and 8 subspecies are grouped.

Arabidopsis thaliana Ecotypes and Geographic Distribution of Arabidopsis

Over 750 natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana have been collected from around the world and are available from the two major seed stock centers, ABRC and NASC. These accessions are quite variable in terms of form and development (e.g. leaf shape,hairiness) and physiology (e.g. flowering time, disease resistance). Researchers around the world are using these differences in natural accessions to uncover the complex genetic interactions such as those underlying plant responses to environment and evolution of morphological traits. While many collections of natural accessions may not meet a strict definition of an ecotype, they are commonly referred to as ecotypes in the scientific literature.

PNG image of world wide distribution (1993, from Jonothan Clarke). This figure was produced by Jonathan Clarke for his Ph.D. (1993) thesis with Caroline Dean at Norwich, U.K. This map was based on, i.e., re-drawn, from an original by George Redei (1969).

World map showing the geographical distribution (longitude, latitude, elevation) of more than 30 Arabidopsis ecotypes. This image was kindly provided to us by the University of Toronto and is also available as interactive map on their website http://www.bar.utoronto.ca/

Distribution map of Arabidopsis in the USA from the USDA’s Plants Database.To view the map interactively (clicking on the states links to county wide distribution) and view other data go to the Plants Database website and enter a query for Scientific Name =Arabidopsis thaliana. Follow the links to view distribution and other links.

 

Information about the origins of frequently used ecotypes (Landsberg erecta, Columbia, and Wassilewskija from NASC.

Common names for Arabidopsis

English: Wall cress; mouse-ear cress

German: Schmalwand, Gänsekraut, Thal’s Gänsekresse

French: arabette rameuse, arabette des dames

Spanish: arabide

Dutch: zandraket

Danish: gåsemad

Norwegian: vårskrinneblom

Hungarian: lúdfü

Polish: rzodkiewnik

 

Japanese: shiro-inu-nazuna

One thought on “Facts about Arabidopsis Thaliana

  • July 23, 2019 at 6:57 pm
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