About Arabidopsis thaliana

Arabidopsis thaliana is a small, flowering plant commonly known in English as thale cress or mouse-ear cress.  A. thaliana is a powerful and widely-used model species in many areas of biology, including genetics, molecular biology, developmental biology, plant biology, biochemistry, physiology and ecology (to name a few. . ).  Why is Arabidopsis such a great model system?  Here are a few reasons. . .

  • The A. thaliana genome is relatively small (five chromosomes, 125 MB) and was fully sequenced in 2000 (The Arabidopsis Genome Initiative (2000) Nature)
  • A wealth of sequence and other genetic information is available at The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) website.
  • A. thaliana is relatively easy and quick to grow, requires minimal space and yields a large number of seeds.
  • While of no agricultural significance itself, A. thaliana belongs to the family Brassicaceae, which includes crops species such as cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, radish, and chinese cabbage.
  • Techniques for genome manipulation, including transformation using Agrobacterium tumefaciens, are available and widely used.
  • Many Arabidopsis mutants are available, including a large collection of over 300,000 T-DNA insertional mutants from the SALK Institute Genome Analysis Laboratory (SIGnAL).
  • There is a large and growing community of researchers worldwide working in academia, industry and government agencies.
  • Research involving A. thaliana has an extensive collection of published data and observations.

Arabidopsis thaliana in its natural habitat

A. thaliana is native to Eurasia and populations can be found growing all across its native range, as well as in areas of North America where it has been introduced.  It is a small, weedy plant that grows in rocky, sandy and disturbed terrains.  Many inbred lines of different natural accessions collected from sites across Eurasia and North America are available to order, and sequence information for many have been released as part of the 1,001 Genomes Project.

A. thaliana is a dicotyledonous, annual plant that follows either a winter annual (germinate in fall, overwinter as a rosette, flower in early spring) or spring annual (overwinter as seeds, germinate and flower in spring) life cycle.

Arabidopsis thaliana in the lab

A. thaliana can be readily grown in a laboratory setting, either in a greenhouse, growth chambers or growth rooms.  Seeds can be germinated and plants grown using both soil or soil-less media, and can even be grown on agar in petri dishes.  After a brief cold treatments, seeds will generally germinate in a few days and the resulting plants can complete their life cycle in as few as 6 weeks!

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