Thoughts on plant genomes

February 03, 2021

There are more than 350,000 angiosperms which are key components of ecosystems. It is now commonly accepted that their existence is essential for preserving a healthy environment and also for the production of food and raw materials. The growing world population and the challenges posed by climate change make the control of these natural resources one of the most crucial issues for all humanity in the future. In this regard, genome sequence information is of fundamental importance for understanding natural diversity and evolution of living organisms as well as for the design of breeding strategies aimed to produce new varieties with suitable traits.

Although the first genome sequence of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana was produced more than twenty years ago, the sequencing of horticultural species awaited the advent of the new generation (NexGen) of high throughput sequencing technologies to overcome the high complexity and big size of their genomes. NextGen technologies has changed the landscape enabling the sequencing of an ever-increasing number of species including horticultural plants with at least 91 fruit species of economic importance and over 200 vegetable plants. By the end of 2018, the genome sequences of 181 horticultural species became available, including 175 angiosperms (reviewed by Chen et al. Horticulture Research 2019, 6:112)

A "10KP plan" was announced at the XIX International Botanical Congress (Shenzhen China, 2017) with the aim to sequence 10,000 genomes covering every major clade of plants and eukaryotic microbes. (Chen et al. 2018 Front. Plant Sci. 9:418. doi: 10.3389/ fpls.2018.00418) sequenced_plant genomes). However, the current databases gathering large-scale data lacks computing devices with sufficient capacity and appropriate bioinformatics tools, stressing the need to up-grade these databases to allow their optimal processing.

Notably, a relatively small number of plants contribute to human diet or provide usable raw materials. On the other hand, genome sequences of thousands of cultivars of the main cereal crops are now available while only a small number of fruit and vegetable genome sequences are available, despite the fact that a broad range of these species make an important contribution to human diet and healthy food.

Recently, some significant advances have been made to fill this gap. These include: The persimmon (Diospyros kaki) genome providing new insights into the inheritance of astringency and ancestral evolution (Zhu et al. Horticulture Research 2019, 6:138)

The snake gourd (Trichosanthes anguina) genome that sheds light on evolutionary aspects of this Cucurbitaceae and on its fruit development and ripening (Ma et al. Horticulture Research 2020, 7:199 )

The genome sequence of Chayote (Sechium edule), another Cucurbitaceae species, allowing to gain comparative insight into shared and divergent features among closely related species (Fu et al., Horticulture Research 2021, 8:35).

Overall, these advances attest to the tremendous acceleration of the sequencing effort and testify to the growing importance of the active contribution of several Chinese groups in this field during the last period. These generic resources will benefit the entire international scientific community and will provide important leads for future research projects which cannot be envisaged in the absence of these genome sequence information.
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Introduction of Professor Mondher Bouzayen

Mondher Bouzayen is the Full Professor Classe Exceptionnelle at Institut National Polytechnique de Touloue, University of Toulouse, and is a member of Academy of Europe (Cell & Developmental Biology), and mainly focus on the fields of plant biotechnology, fleshy fruit development, fruit ripening, hormones signaling and response, fruit genomics, transcriptional regulation, transcriptomics and high throughput sequencing, and obtained many honours and awards such as 2013 Novela award of the city of Toulouse which honors distinguished scientists for outstanding work in my case the accomplishment of the tomato genome sequencing, 2011 Officier des Palmes Académiques, 2010 awarded the title of Guangbiao Professeur Chair by the University of Zhejiang (ranking 3rd in China) a distinction given to outstanding scientists in their field of research.

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

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