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Sharing science: GeneChip and the Nottingham Arabidopsis Stock Centre (NASC)

Copyright: BlueRidgeKitties/Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Since 1990 the Nottingham Arabidopsis Stock Centre (NASC) has provided researchers with access to a unique collection of over 800,000 seed stocks from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. These stocks are used for experiments related to economically important crop and biofuel plants and are shared for use in fundamental plant science research in laboratories around the world – supporting the UK’s bioeconomy and world-leading position in the field.

Data breakout

130,000 Number of seed tubes distributed around the world per year by the NASC
1st UK ranking among G8 countries for plant science (according to citations per article)
140Mb Size of the Arabidopsis genome, which is small compared to the 17GB wheat genome and allows fast-turnaround experiments

From 2002, the NASC began offering a transcriptomics service to researchers known as GeneChip, which enables plant science researchers to send samples to NASC where they are analysed for the complete set of RNA molecules produced (or ‘transcribed’) from a genome. One of the conditions for using the Genechip service is that the data are released into the public domain – an early example of an ‘open access’ resource in the biosciences.

So far, GeneChip has released over 4,000 data files and users include plant and crop scientists, computer scientists and bioinformaticians, as well as veterinary, medical and bioenergy researchers.

“We gave Arabidopsis researchers, and crop researchers, and some animal researchers, the ability to get data they might not otherwise have been able to access very easily,” says Professor Sean May, Chair of Plant Cyberinfrastructure at the University of Nottingham and Director of the NASC.

Working with the simpler genome and six-week generation time of Arabidopsis before translating their results into more complex crop species allows researchers to address the challenges more quickly than using other plants that have longer generation times and larger, more complex genomes. Researchers use the plant to model how climate change will affect crops and how to develop increased food yields, as well as investigating the fundamental factors affecting plant growth and development.

Stocks held by the NASC available to all, creating a level playing field for researchers who can concentrate on their scientific work, leaving the curation, management and validation of stocks to specialists at the centre.

Read the full impact evidence report:

The Nottingham Arabidopsis Stock Centre (PDF 249KB)

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Header image copyright: Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Flickr by CC 2.0