Barley pan-genome: IPK scientists reach milestone on the way to 'transparent' barley

November 25, 2020

In order to record all genetic information of an individual, its genome must be completely decoded. IPK scientists and international partners for barley already succeeded in doing this three years ago (Mascher et al. 2017). But to understand the genetic information of the entire barley species, much more is required. An international team, again led by IPK scientists, has now come a significant step closer to deciphering this so-called pan-genome of barley, as the science magazine Nature reports in today's issue.

What is astonishing, individual genomes sometimes differ considerably in their number of genes and in the arrangement and orientation of large parts of individual chromosomes, the carriers of genetic information. These "structural" changes in the barley genome can present an insurmountable barrier for recombining important plant characters in crossbreeding.

The starting point of this research was the attempt of characterising by sequencing all approximately 22,000 barley seed samples from the Federal Ex-situ Gene Bank at IPK (Milner et al. 2019). This identified twenty highly diverse genotypes, which have now been selected for complete sequencing. "Criteria for the selection included the greatest possible differences in their genetic diversity, geographical origin and biological traits such as winter or spring type , grain hull, row-type," says Prof. Dr. Nils Stein, head of the Genomics of Genetic Resources research group at IPK and holder of a joint professorship at the University of Göttingen.

Besides the observation that two barley varieties can differ substantially in their total gene content, the scientists found amazing differences in the linear order of the genetic information in the chromosomes - so-called structural genom differences. Two of these structural variations, inversions (the opposite arrangement of genetic information in two genomes), attracted the particular interest of the scientists: in one case, a link could be established to mutation breeding in the 1960s; the inversion since then spread unnoticed through breeding to present-day varieties. In the second case, the observed structural variation got potentially selected during environmental adaptation while the range of barley production in early agriculture expanded to northern latitudes in Europe. "The description of such large genomic inversions in barley is new", says Prof. Dr. Nils Stein. "They can play a decisive role in the breeding process as they might prevent recombination, thus making cross-breeding for desired trait combinations impossible." But in general: "These naturally occurring or artificially induced inversions are evidence of a considerable dynamics in the genome organisation of this important crop species."

The new findings have a great impact on science and breeding. "We have created a new knowledge-base and opened up a treasure trove of new information for breeding", confirms Prof. Dr. Nils Stein. Molecular markers could now be used to specifically take into account structural variation for barley breeding.

The project, including scientists from Australia, Canada, USA, China, Japan and Scotland, was initiated and coordinated at IPK. The IPK has been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the field of cereal genome research for more than ten years.

Despite current progress, researchers still face major challenges. "We have not yet recorded the entire diversity of barley," explains Dr. Martin Mascher. "To do so, we need to fully sequence and decode additional genotypes," says the head of the independent Domestication Genomics Research Group at IPK. In a next step, the researchers want to take a closer look at wild barley, the direct ancestor of today's cultivated crop. "We still lack wild barley as an important gene pool," explains Dr. Martin Mascher. "And I am quite sure that we are discovering diversity that could be of considerable value for future barley breeding and research."

Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science 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