Peach genome offers insights into breeding strategies for biofuels crops

March 24, 2013

Rapidly growing trees like poplars and willows are candidate "biofuel crops" from which it is expected that cellulosic ethanol and higher energy content fuels can be efficiently extracted. Domesticating these as crops requires a deep understanding of the physiology and genetics of trees, and scientists are turning to long-domesticated fruit trees for hints. The relationship between a peach and a poplar may not be obvious at first glance, but to botanists both trees are part of the rosid superfamily, which includes not only fruit crops like apples, strawberries, cherries, and almonds, but many other plants as well, including rose that gives the superfamily its name.

"The close relationship between peach and poplar trees is evident from their DNA sequence," said Jeremy Schmutz, head of the Plant Program at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI).

In the March 24 edition of Nature Genetics, Schmutz and several colleagues were part of the International Peach Genome Initiative (IPGI) that published the 265-million base genome of the Lovell variety of Prunus persica.

"Using comparative genomics approaches, characterization of the peach sequence can be exploited not only for the improvement and sustainability of peach and other important tree species, but also to enhance our understanding of the basic biology of trees," the team wrote. They compared 141 peach gene families to those of six other fully sequenced diverse plant species to unravel unique metabolic pathways, for instance, those that lead to lignin biosynthesis--the molecular "glue" that holds the plant cells together--and a key barrier to deconstructing biomass into fuels.

For bioenergy researchers, the size of the peach genome makes it ideal to serve as a plant model for studying genes found in related genomes, such as poplar, one of the DOE JGI's Plant Flagship Genomes (http://bit.ly/JGI-Plants), and develop methods for improving plant biomass yield for biofuels.

"One gene we're interested in is the so-called "evergreen" locus in peaches, which extends the growing season," said Daniel Rokhsar, DOE JGI Eukaryotic Program head under whose leadership sequencing of the peach genome began back in 2007. "In theory, it could be manipulated in poplar to increase the accumulation of biomass."

The publication comes three years after the International Peach Genome Consortium publicly released the draft assembly of the annotated peach genome on the DOE JGI Plant portal Phytozome.net and on other websites. The decision to sequence the peach genome was first announced during the 2007 Plant and Animal Genome XI Conference. Learn more about poplar and DOE JGI Plant Flagship Genomes at http://genome.jgi.doe.gov/programs/plants/flagship_genomes.jsf.

In the United States, the Initiative was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and led by researchers at the DOE JGI, The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Clemson University, North Carolina State University, and Washington State University. Additional support was contributed by U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the Energy Biosciences Institute, of the University of California, Berkeley, who supported senior author Therese Mitros. The Italian government also supported this international effort, including the work of first author Ignazio Verde of the Fruit Tree Research Centre/Agricultural Research Council in Rome, Italy. Contributions were also made from research institutes in Chile, Spain, and France.
-end-
The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, is committed to advancing genomics in support of DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI, headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Follow @doe_jgi on Twitter.

DOE's Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

DOE/Joint Genome Institute

Related Genetics Articles from Brightsurf:

Human genetics: A look in the mirror
Genome Biology and Evolution's latest virtual issue highlights recent research published in the journal within the field of human genetics.

The genetics of blood: A global perspective
To better understand the properties of blood cells, an international team led by UdeM's Guillaume Lettre has been examining variations in the DNA of 746,667 people worldwide.

Turning to genetics to treat little hearts
Researchers makes a breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of a common congenital heart disease.

New drugs more likely to be approved if backed up by genetics
A new drug candidate is more likely to be approved for use if it targets a gene known to be linked to the disease; a finding that can help pharmaceutical companies to focus their drug development efforts.

Mapping millet genetics
New DNA sequences will aid in the development of improved millet varieties

Genetics to feed the world
A study, published in Nature Genetics, demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology known as genomic selection in a wheat improvement program.

The genetics of cancer
A research team has identified a new circular RNA (ribonucleic acid) that increases tumor activity in soft tissue and connective tissue tumors.

New results on fungal genetics
An international team of researchers has found unusual genetic features in fungi of the order Trichosporonales.

Mouse genetics influences the microbiome more than environment
Genetics has a greater impact on the microbiome than maternal birth environment, at least in mice, according to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

New insights into genetics of fly longevity
Alexey Moskalev, Ph.D., Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Radiobiology and Gerontology Institute of Biology, and co-authors from the Institute of biology of Komi Science Center of RAS, Engelgard's Institute of molecular biology, involved in the study of the aging mechanisms and longevity of model animals announce the publication of a scientific article titled: 'The Neuronal Overexpression of Gclc in Drosophila melanogaster Induces Life Extension With Longevity-Associated Transcriptomic Changes in the Thorax' in Frontiers in Genetics - a leading open science platform.

Read More: Genetics News and Genetics Current Events
Brightsurf.com 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 Amazon.com.