Watching Grass Grow: The Emergence of Brachypodium distachyon as a Model for the Poaceae

  • Christopher W. P. Lyons
  • Karen-Beth G. ScholthofEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 40)


Advances in plant molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics necessitated the establishment of model plants for common research. Here, we explore how a model organism gains such a status, and how it can be predicated on the success of another model organism. Arabidopsis thaliana emerged as a model in the 1980s and was the first plant to have its genome sequenced. Yet, with all of its success in the laboratory, Arabidopsis is, arguably, a poor tool for translational research. Brachypodium distachyon was proposed as a new model system to specially meet perceived gaps in basic and applied research for cereal, bioenergy, and forage grasses. Brachypodium seems to have come up from different roots than its predecessor, as shown by our investigation of the individuals and institutions involved with its development. These researchers managed to push this grass, with its sequenced genome, molecular toolbox, and supporting community to become the “model of all the Poaceae” and to challenge Arabidopsis’ status as “the model plant.”


Arabidopsis Bioenergy Brachypodium US Department of Energy Model organism US Department of Agriculture 



We appreciate the critical comments provided by Herman Scholthof, Kranthi Mandadi, Jesse Pyle, Will Cody, Sharon Kingsland, and Denise Phillips. We would like to especially thank David Garvin , John Vogel, Luis Mur , and Pilar Catalán for their helpful comments and discussions as we prepared this manuscript. This research was funded, in part, by a Texas A&M Energy Institute Fellowship (CWPL), the Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities at Texas A&M (K-BGS), and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program Grant (No. 00517–002–2009, K-BGS).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher W. P. Lyons
    • 1
  • Karen-Beth G. Scholthof
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Plant Pathology and MicrobiologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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