Most of our work in the last few years has focused on manipulating starch biosynthesis in plants. This has led to the identification of a number of specific DNA polymorphisms that have a profound impact on the structure and functional properties of starch granules. Interestingly, the effect of some of these polymorphisms is temperature sensitive. For example, a key G/T polymorphism at the 5' leader intron splice site of rice granule bound starch synthase has little phenotypic effect at 18 ?C, but at 25 ?C it activates an alternate splice site that results in a premature open reading frame. At 32 ?C, a third nonconsensus TT/GT splice site is activated. This type of temperature sensitivity is one of the key factors responsible for the complex genotype x environment relationships seen in starch structure and represents a good target for manipulation via biotechnology. We have also worked with an industrial partner and a breeder to develop the first commercial rice varieties specifically tailored to work with a new type of processing technology and to identify the genes responsible for optimal raw material/process interactions. Other work in the laboratory is focused on the identification and manipulation of DNA polymorphisms associated with disease resistance and with herbicide resistance in the wild relatives of crop plants.
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