To date, the overwhelming majority of genomics programs in plants have been directed at model or crop plant species, meaning that very little of the naturally occurring sequence diversity found in plants is available for characterization and exploitation. In contrast, ‘xenogenomics’ refers to the discovery and functional analysis of novel genes and alleles from indigenous and exotic species, permitting bioprospecting of biodiversity using high-throughput genomics experimental approaches. Such a program has been initiated to bioprospect for genetic determinants of abiotic stress tolerance in indigenous Australian flora and native Antarctic plants. Uniquely adapted Poaceae and Fabaceae species with enhanced tolerance to salt, drought, elevated soil aluminium concentration, and freezing stress have been identified, based primarily on their eco-physiology, and have been subjected to structural and functional genomics analyses. For each species, EST collections have been derived from plants subjected to appropriate abiotic stresses. Transcript profiling with spotted unigene cDNA micro-arrays has been used to identify genes that are transcriptionally modulated in response to abiotic stress. Candidate genes identified on the basis of sequence annotation or transcript profiling have been assayed
in plantaand other in vivosystems for their capacity to confer novel phenotypes. Comparative genomics analysis of novel genes and alleles identified in the xenogenomics target plant species has subsequently been undertaken with reference to key model and crop plants.