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News Release – The full breadth of Mendel’s genetics

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Gregor Mendel’s fame is based on his experiments in pea plants (Pisum), published 150 years ago. Curiously, Mendel’s later studies on Hieracium (hawkweed) are usually seen as a frustrating failure, because it is assumed that they were intended to confirm the segregation ratios he found in Pisum, while it is now known Hieracium species mostly reproduce by means of clonal seeds (apomixis). Peter J. van Dijk (picture) and T. H. Noel Ellis1 show that this assumption arises from a misunderstanding that could be explained by a missing page in Mendel’s first letter to Carl Nägeli.

Peter van Dijk, apomixis expert at KeyGene: “The story about Mendel’s frustration about failing hawkweed experiments is based on misunderstandings. Mendel’s writings clearly indicate his interest in “constant hybrids,” hybrids which do not segregate, and which were “essentially different” from “variable hybrids” such as in Pisum. Mendel’s first letter to Nägeli most probably missed a page, but nobody noticed this as researchers based their assumptions on later published transcripts.”

Arjen van Tunen, CEO of KeyGene: “KeyGene is proud on the publication of Peter van Dijk, one of our top researchers. This publication does not only reflect an exciting story with a lot of in-depth research. It is also highly relevant because it illustrates a broader perspective of the work of one of the most important researchers in the history of plant breeding. Therefore KeyGene supported the publication of the story as open access in the journal Genetics. This safeguards that the entire research community has access to this nice piece of scientific detective work.”

1 The Full Breadth of Mendel’s Genetics
Peter J. van Dijk and T. H. Noel Ellis
Genetics December 2016 204:1327-1336; doi:10.1534/genetics.116.196626 OPEN ACCESS ARTICLE

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