Plant Molecular Biology 56: v, 2004. by the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology 2005 Kumho Award Steven D. Tanksley, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Plant Breeding in Cornell University is the winner of the 2005 Kumho Award in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. Prof Tanksley is a pioneer of genome mapping, comparative genomics and marker assisted breeding of crop plants. He has made a series of key discoveries with implications for the understanding of genomes and crop plant improvement. The award of $30,000 is administered by the International Society of Plant Molecular Biology and sponsored by the Kumho Cultural Foundation in Korea. Tanksley has pioneered molecular mapping of plant genomes. He produced the ﬁrst molecular maps of tomato, potato and rice genomes and, using these, has developed novel approaches in marker-assisted plant breeding and comparative genomics. The molecular maps also allowed the characterisation of genetic loci at the molecular level without having any prior information about the protein product. The impact of this development cannot be overstated – it means that the power of molecular genetics can be directed at crop plants and is not restricted to model species. Tanksley’s cloning of the Pto tomato locus illustrates this point. It was one of the ﬁrst disease resistance genes to be characterised from plants and its kinase protein product is a paradigm for molecular recognition and signal transduction in disease resistance. More recently Tanksley has exploited genome maps for the molecular characterisation of complex genetic traits, including those in which the locus has a quantitative eﬀect on the plant. Molecular maps allowed Tanksley to compare genomes and discover that there is extensive conservation of gene sequences and gene order even in distantly related plants. This genome co-linearity reveals that genome evolution involves rearrangements of large blocks of genes. It also has practical implications because orphan crops can now be characterised by reference to related major crops with extensively characterised genomes. One of Tanksley’s most spectacular discoveries is that wild rice and tomato species have an unexpected wealth of genes. Undomesticated tomato relatives with small green fruit, for example, have genes that can increase the size or the red pigment of fruit in domesticated tomato. Similarly, wild rice relatives have genes that improve yield in cultivated rice. This discovery will revolutionize the way that plant germplasm can be exploited for crop improvement. It will also help our eventual understanding of complex regulatory systems aﬀecting genomes and genome expression. Tanksley’s work is also a foundation for many other discoveries and developments in plant molecular biology and crop plant breeding. In addition, his ﬁndings have the potential to address the problems of crop production in both the developed and the developing world. He is congratulated on this award.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 7, 2005
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