The Nutritious Rice for the World project predicted the structures of key proteins in the rice plant, providing information that can help scientists develop better strains of rice. Watch a replay of last week's webcast in which project researcher, Dr. Hung, discussed the project, the publication of its results, its findings and its significance.
On 17 April, Dr. Ling-Hong Hung of the Nutritious Rice for the World project team led a live online presentation, the first since the computing phase of the project on World Community Grid ended in 2010. Member who joined the webcast heard first-hand about the scope of the project, the results, and the important implications of this work for developing better food crops.
If you missed the webcast, you can read a summary and view the replay below:
Summary of the webcast:
Dr. Hung explained that rice presents a unique challenge to plant scientists. It is the most important single food crop, providing about one-fifth of all the calories consumed by humans. Past plant breeding efforts have produced strains of rice with higher yields and better nutritional content, and it is vital to keep improving this important food resource as the world’s population grows and its climate changes. However, it is slow and difficult work to improve rice further, because most of the basic building blocks of the plant – its proteins – are a mystery. The rice genome encodes about 50,000 proteins, but the structures of these proteins are mostly unknown, so scientists do not know what role each protein plays in the plant. If these roles were known, plant breeding efforts could be better focused and potentially much more successful.
Nutritious Rice for the World used modeling techniques to predict these protein structures based on the genomes of two strains of rice. Volunteers simulated about 100 trillion possible structures, from which the researchers selected the 300,000 best. This represents about 5 possible structures for each gene or set of genes that they studied. The structures are now publicly available for download from two websites (here and here) maintained by the research team. Now that these structures are available, researchers can compare them to the known structures of other proteins from other organisms and get a better idea of the specific role that each protein plays in the rice plant.
In addition to the huge database of calculated protein structures, the project also improved the computational methods used to simulate the proteins themselves. These improved methods mean that future protein research will be able to deliver much more efficient and accurate results.
This work was only possible due to the massive computing power available from volunteers on World Community Grid. On behalf of Dr. Hung and the entire project team, thank you for helping advance this important research!