Advancing understanding of hop genome to aid brewers, medical researchers

February 21, 2021

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have significantly expanded the understanding of the hop genome, a development with important implications for the brewing industry and scientists who study the potential medical benefits of hops.

"This research has the unique ability to impact several different fields," said David Hendrix, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Oregon State. "If you're talking to beer drinkers, they will be excited about the brewing side. If you are talking to the medical field, they are going to be excited about the pharmaceutical potential."

The findings are outlined in a paper just published in the journal The Plant Genome. Hendrix and John Henning, a hop geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who has an appointment in the Oregon State College of Agricultural Sciences, are co-corresponding authors of the paper.

Demand for hops has surged in recent years as the craft beer industry has grown, fueled by beers, such as India pale ales, that are brewed with a lot of hops. This has led brewers to seek out new varieties of hops. With a better understanding of the hop genome, scientists will have an easier time developing new varieties, which may have qualities such as different flavor profiles or resistance to diseases that infect and damage hop plants.

"This really opens the door wide for breeding hops at the molecular level," Henning said. "We now have a much better understanding of how traits are being controlled and what genes are involved."

Compounds founds in hops are also increasingly of interest to medical researchers. For example, scientists at Oregon State have shown that xanthohumol, a natural flavonoid found in hops, may aid in combating cancer and metabolic syndrome. Knowing more about hop genes and how they are regulated creates potential for better understanding how compounds are produced and finding other hop compounds that could improve people's health.

Hops are part of the Cannabaceae family of plants, which also includes hemp and marijuana. In the just-published paper, the Oregon State researchers found gene structures in the hop genome that were similar to cannabidolic acid synthase, or CBDAS, which produces the precursor structure to CBD, the compound in cannabis plants that has surged in popularity in recent years because of its potential health benefits.

The Oregon State researchers stressed that their finding doesn't necessarily mean that hops produce CBDA, but it raises questions about the potential to identify new genes involved in the production of different compounds associated with flavoring or therapeutic benefit, and the potential to uncover new compounds in hops.

The researchers sequenced the genome of Cascade, a hop cultivar developed by USDA Agricultural Research Service in the 1960s and credited with helping to launch the craft beer movement. It is the second most widely grown hop variety in the United States today.

The United States is the top hop producing country in the world and Washington, Oregon and Idaho account for nearly all the hop acreage in the United States. In 2019, production of hops in the United States was worth more than $600 million.

Other scientists have attempted to sequence the hop genome, but they have had limited success because it is large - similar in size to the human genome - and complex, Hendrix said. The current research was made possible in part by new genome sequencing and assembly technology developed by Pacific Biosciences of California.

"The previous genomes were basically broken up," Hendrix said. "They were sequencing a lot of the genes, but they were isolated islands of the genome and they were not really getting the full context of what was going on in those islands. We were able to reveal a more complete and continuous genomic sequence."
In addition to Hendrix and Henning, the lead author on this paper was Lillian K. Padgitt-Cobb and co-authors of the paper are: Jackson Wells, Brent Kronmiller, Justin Elser and Pankaj Jaiswal, all of Oregon State; Daniel Moore of USDA Agricultural Research Service; Sarah B. Kingan, Gregory Concepcion, Paul Peluso and David Rank, all of Pacific Biosciences of California.

Funding for the sequencing was provided by Pacific Biosciences of California and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The research was also supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Oregon State University

Related Genome Articles from Brightsurf:

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.

Breakthrough in genome visualization
Kadir Dede and Dr. Enno Ohlebusch at Ulm University in Germany have devised a method for constructing pan-genome subgraphs at different granularities without having to wait hours and days on end for the software to process the entire genome.

Sturgeon genome sequenced
Sturgeons lived on earth already 300 million years ago and yet their external appearance seems to have undergone very little change.

A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.

Deciphering the walnut genome
New research could provide a major boost to the state's growing $1.6 billion walnut industry by making it easier to breed walnut trees better equipped to combat the soil-borne pathogens that now plague many of California's 4,800 growers.

Illuminating the genome
Development of a new molecular visualisation method, RNA-guided endonuclease -- in situ labelling (RGEN-ISL) for the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated labelling of genomic sequences in nuclei and chromosomes.

A genome under influence
References form the basis of our comprehension of the world: they enable us to measure the height of our children or the efficiency of a drug.

How a virus destabilizes the genome
New insights into how Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) induces genome instability and promotes cell proliferation could lead to the development of novel antiviral therapies for KSHV-associated cancers, according to a study published Sept.

Better genome editing
Reich Group researchers develop a more efficient and precise method of in-cell genome editing.

Unlocking the genome
A team led by Prof. Stein Aerts (VIB-KU Leuven) uncovers how access to relevant DNA regions is orchestrated in epithelial cells.

Read More: Genome News and Genome Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to