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Flax Chromosome Structure Deciphered
before March 9, 2006


Flax fabric was always expensive. Flax oil was precious too. Flax cultivation and processing is known for more than 4 thousand years. During this period flax had moved from Egypt to many European countries and became an important industrial and officinal culture. Nevertheless, plant breeders create more and more new flax species, tolerant to changing climate, with better fibre and more efficient. Now this diligent and time-taking work will be significantly effective due to Russian and Belarusian scientists discovery. Scientists from RAS Engelgardt Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) and BAS Institute of Cytology and Genetics had deciphered all flax chromosomes within the joint project.

Let us remind you that chromosomes are DNA containing morphological structures in the cell nucleus. Every species has its own chromosome set. Chromosomes are in fact one giant DNA molecule that is curled in spirals (together with special proteins) in a way that could be seen in an ordinary light microscope. A chromosome looks like a long ribbon with cross light and dark stripes (bands): these stripes of different colour contain DNA of different composition. One can differ one chromosome from another by comparing these stripes. This is the way of making chromosome portraits, or karyotypes, of different plant and animal species. The look of a chromosome allows geneticists making important conclusions about genetical information without analyzing gene nucleotide sequence.

But studying flax chromosomes is difficult because they are so small, that cant be seen in the microscope. IMB scientists have developed special dying and computer research methods in combination with glowing (fluorescent) samples and succeeded in flax chromosome identification, having characterized karyotypes of cultivated flax and some of its wild congeners. The results showed that genomes of two closely related wild flax species originate from one primeval genome, with chromosome basic number of 8 or 9. The primeval form, possibly after doubling or losing of one chromosome, has differentiated into two species. Pretty strong chromosome resemblance of wild species indicates their close kindred. One of these species was previously considered to be cultivated flaxs progenitor. However, the research has showed that cultivated flaxs chromosomes differ greatly from those of the wild species. That means they are remote relatives. Nevertheless, the scientists continue studying other flax species in order to understand, where present cultivated flax had originated.

What use do these results bring to the plant breeders? Determination of affinity between different flax species and obtaining their chromosome portraits will facilitate and accelerate new valuable hybrid breeding.

The research shows that fundamental genome and chromosome studies start being of a certain benefit, for example, to agriculture.

We will end giving a good advice to men. If you want to make your fair one happy, bring her a real flaxy towel. It can absorb water twice as much as it weighs and doesnt leave fur on the plates. Or may be bedclothes, which can be boiled and ironed with a hot iron. And the best present is a flaxy suit, which makes you feel fresh even when the weather is very hot. The fact is that flax fibre has thermal conductivity twice as much as wool has, and 20% higher than cotton. One wearing flaxy suit loses 50-100 g less sweat than one wearing a cotton suit of the same cut. The temperature of the inner surface of the fabric is always 4-5% lower than that of the outside. Even silk lacks such temperature gradient.


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