Joachim MessingWaksman Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA F1000 Faculty Member (since 01 February 2002)
Selman Waksman Professor of Molecular Genetics, Rutgers University
Joachim Messing specialized in molecular biology during his doctoral research at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. He is one of the worlds foremost experts in the genetics of corn and has been deeply involved in the rice, corn and sorghum genome sequencing projects, a reflection of his personal commitment to alleviating hunger in the developing world. In 1982, Messing and his colleagues developed the shotgun sequencing approach that represented a significant advance in methodology. It was made freely available and has seen wide usage in major undertakings such as the Human Genome Project. Messing, now director of the Waksman Institute, joined the Rutgers faculty in 1985.
Thirty years ago we developed a method called shotgun DNA sequencing, which has been used to sequence the genomes of microorganisms, animals, and plants. Recently, in collaboration with other laboratories, we have sequenced the entire rice genome as a reference for gene discovery and organization in cereal species. Cereals are part of the grass family and some of its members provide the major food supply on earth. One interesting feature of the genomes of different cereal species is the enormous size variation, which is in part due to differential retro-transpositions and up to some degree due to gene amplification. An example of differential gene amplification is the seed storage protein genes in maize. From a practical point of view, the amino acid composition of the mature seed is controlled by the accumulation of the differentially expressed storage proteins, which therefore regulate nitrogen deposition in the seed and serve as a major renewable energy resource on earth. Interestingly, gene amplification results in differential regulation of individual gene members, providing new clues of plant chromosomal organization and functionalization.
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