The goal of this project is to determine how natural rubber is synthesized in plants. Natural rubber is required for the manufacture of thousands of products needed in daily life. Due to its superior performance properties, natural rubber is an irreplaceable material in the manufacture of many products, such as automobile and aircraft tires. Surprisingly, even with its high economic and strategic importance, the biosynthesis of rubber has been poorly characterized. Move than fifty years of biochemical experimentation has so far failed to identify the proteins required for rubber biosynthesis in plants. This is primarily due to the fact that the membrane associated rubber biosynthetic machinery is resistant to purification by classic biochemical methods. To circumvent this problem, proteomics, genomics and reverse genetic analyses will be used to functionally identify the genes/proteins required for rubber biosynthesis from two hyper-producing rubber species, guayule (Parthenium argentatum) and Russian dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz). The novel approach used here represents the most rapid means of advancing our knowledge of rubber biosynthesis in plants and will lead to identification of genes/proteins that regulate the quantity and quality of natural rubber. The gene-based resources generated from this research will be used for the improvement of current rubber producing crops and the development of alternative rubber producing domestic crops through genetic engineering and molecular breeding approaches. The development of domestic rubber producing crops will provide a number of benefits to the American public including: 1) decreased dependence on imported natural rubber, 2) the creatation of a new high value commodity crops for the American farmer, 3) the generation of a hypoallergenic alternatives to Hevea derived rubber for persons with latex allergies and 4) decreased dependence on petroleum for the synthesis of synthetic polymers.
It is anticipated that 20,000 high quality EST sequences will be obtained from rubber producing preparations and these will be immediately made available on GenBank. Clones for these EST's will be made available without reach-through restrictions and for a nominal fee.