The genus Brachypodium represents a model system that is advancing our knowledge of the biology of grasses, including small grains, in the postgenomics era. The most widely used species, Brachypodium distachyon, is a C3 plant that is distributed worldwide. B. distachyon has a small genome, short life cycle, and small stature and is amenable to genetic transformation. Due to the intensive and thoughtful development of this grass as a model organism, it is well-suited for laboratory and field experimentation. The intent of this review is to introduce this model system genus and describe some key outcomes of nearly a decade of research since the first draft genome sequence of the flagship species, B. distachyon, was completed. We discuss characteristics and features of B. distachyon and its congeners that make the genus a valuable model system for studies in ecology, evolution, genetics, and genomics in the grasses, review current hot topics in Brachypodium research, and highlight the potential for future analysis using this system in the coming years.

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