April 21, 2020  |  

The role of genomic structural variation in the genetic improvement of polyploid crops

Many of our major crop species are polyploids, containing more than one genome or set of chromosomes. Polyploid crops present unique challenges, including difficulties in genome assembly, in discriminating between multiple gene and sequence copies, and in genetic mapping, hindering use of genomic data for genetics and breeding. Polyploid genomes may also be more prone to containing structural variation, such as loss of gene copies or sequences (presence–absence variation) and the presence of genes or sequences in multiple copies (copy-number variation). Although the two main types of genomic structural variation commonly identified are presence–absence variation and copy-number variation, we propose that homeologous exchanges constitute a third major form of genomic structural variation in polyploids. Homeologous exchanges involve the replacement of one genomic segment by a similar copy from another genome or ancestrally duplicated region, and are known to be extremely common in polyploids. Detecting all kinds of genomic structural variation is challenging, but recent advances such as optical mapping and long-read sequencing offer potential strategies to help identify structural variants even in complex polyploid genomes. All three major types of genomic structural variation (presence–absence, copy-number, and homeologous exchange) are now known to influence phenotypes in crop plants, with examples of flowering time, frost tolerance, and adaptive and agronomic traits. In this review, we summarize the challenges of genome analysis in polyploid crops, describe the various types of genomic structural variation and the genomics technologies and data that can be used to detect them, and collate information produced to date related to the impact of genomic structural variation on crop phenotypes. We highlight the importance of genomic structural variation for the future genetic improvement of polyploid crops.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete Assembly of the Genome of an Acidovorax citrulli Strain Reveals a Naturally Occurring Plasmid in This Species.

Acidovorax citrulli is the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch (BFB), a serious threat to cucurbit crop production worldwide. Based on genetic and phenotypic properties, A. citrulli strains are divided into two major groups: group I strains have been generally isolated from melon and other non-watermelon cucurbits, while group II strains are closely associated with watermelon. In a previous study, we reported the genome of the group I model strain, M6. At that time, the M6 genome was sequenced by MiSeq Illumina technology, with reads assembled into 139 contigs. Here, we report the assembly of the M6 genome following sequencing with PacBio technology. This approach not only allowed full assembly of the M6 genome, but it also revealed the occurrence of a ~53 kb plasmid. The M6 plasmid, named pACM6, was further confirmed by plasmid extraction, Southern-blot analysis of restricted fragments and obtention of M6-derivative cured strains. pACM6 occurs at low copy numbers (average of ~4.1 ± 1.3 chromosome equivalents) in A. citrulli M6 and contains 63 open reading frames (ORFs), most of which (55.6%) encoding hypothetical proteins. The plasmid contains several genes encoding type IV secretion components, and typical plasmid-borne genes involved in plasmid maintenance, replication and transfer. The plasmid also carries an operon encoding homologs of a Fic-VbhA toxin-antitoxin (TA) module. Transcriptome data from A. citrulli M6 revealed that, under the tested conditions, the genes encoding the components of this TA system are among the highest expressed genes in pACM6. Whether this TA module plays a role in pACM6 maintenance is still to be determined. Leaf infiltration and seed transmission assays revealed that, under tested conditions, the loss of pACM6 did not affect the virulence of A. citrulli M6. We also show that pACM6 or similar plasmids are present in several group I strains, but absent in all tested group II strains of A. citrulli.


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