As the reseach profiles of the academic staff from the IPB indicate (Dr Hills, Prof Kossmann, Prof Lloyd, Dr Peters, Dr van der Vyver) relate the IPB research competences to the production and analysis of transgenic plants as well as the isolation of genes involved in polysaccharide synthesis. We study the model species Arabidopsis thaliana, Medicago truncatula, Physcomitrell patens and Solanum tuberosum for fundamental questions. We use mutant collections in particular to apply reverse genetic analysis. We also genetically transform plants such as wheat, sugarcane and all the model species to apply reverse and forward genetics in order to assign function to genes.
We have access to the full toolbox of contemporary functional genomics analysis for phenotyping the genetic variability that we isolate. We do this mostly in collaboration with the Central Analytical Facility (CAF; http://academic.sun.ac.za/saf/) on campus or with the Centre for Proteomics and Genomics Research (CPGR; http://www.cpgr.org.za/), which is located on the campus of the University of Cape Town, within 40 km of our Institute.
We have established unique functional screening systems in Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae for isolating novel genes encoding enzymes that synthesize, modify or degrade biopolymers. These systems also use a range of mutants in metabolism that can either be complemented or that allow for a gain–of-function screen. We have established a range of cDNA libraries from diverse species and metagenomic libraries from unique ecological niches that allow for such functional screens. We are also able to screen for affinity to certain substrates using unique plasmid display technology.