This little plant has become to plant biology what Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans are to animal biology.
Arabidopsis is an angiosperm, a dicot from the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is popularly known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress. While it has no commercial value — in fact is considered a weed — it has proved to be an ideal organism for studying plant development.Some of its advantages as a model organism:
|Other members of its family cannot self-pollinate. They have an active system of self-incompatibility. Arabidopsis, however, has inactivating mutations in the genes — SRK and SCR — that prevent self-pollination in other members of the family. [Link to discussion.]|
Many of the findings about how plants work — described throughout these pages — were learned from studies with Arabidopsis. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Hanley Markelz of the Plant Genome Research Outreach Program at Cornell University.)