June 1, 2021  |  

De novo assembly of a complex panicoid grass genome using ultra-long PacBio reads with P6C4 chemistry

Drought is responsible for much of the global losses in crop yields and understanding how plants naturally cope with drought stress is essential for breeding and engineering crops for the changing climate. Resurrection plants desiccate to complete dryness during times of drought, then “come back to life” once water is available making them an excellent model for studying drought tolerance. Understanding the molecular networks governing how resurrection plants handle desiccation will provide targets for crop engineering. Oropetium thomaeum (Oro) is a resurrection plant that also has the smallest known grass genome at 250 Mb compared to Brachypodium distachyon (300 Mb) and rice (350 Mb). Plant genomes, especially grasses, have complex repeat structures such as telomeres, centromeres, and ribosomal gene cassettes, and high heterozygosity, which makes them difficult to assembly using short read next generation sequencing technologies. Ultra-long PacBio reads using the new P6C4 chemistry and the latest 15kb Blue Pippin size-selection protocol to generate 20kb insert libraries that yielded an average read length of 12kb providing ~72X coverage, and 10X coverage with reads over 20kb. The HGAP assembly covers 98% of the genome with a contig N50 of 2.4 Mb, which makes it one of the highest quality and most complete plant genomes assembled to date. Oro has a compact genome structure compared to other grasses with only 16% repeat sequences but has very good collinearity with other grasses. Understanding the genomic mechanisms of extreme desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants like Oro will provide insights for engineering and intelligent breeding of improved food, fuel, and fiber crops.


June 1, 2021  |  

Characterizing the pan-genome of maize with PacBio SMRT Sequencing

Maize is an amazingly diverse crop. A study in 20051 demonstrated that half of the genome sequence and one-third of the gene content between two inbred lines of maize were not shared. This diversity, which is more than two orders of magnitude larger than the diversity found between humans and chimpanzees, highlights the inability of a single reference genome to represent the full pan-genome of maize and all its variants. Here we present and review several efforts to characterize the complete diversity within maize using the highly accurate long reads of PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing. These methods provide a framework for a pan-genomic approach that can be applied to studies of a wide variety of important crop species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Analyses of the Complete Genome Sequence of the Strain Bacillus pumilus ZB201701 Isolated from Rhizosphere Soil of Maize under Drought and Salt Stress.

Bacillus pumilus ZB201701 is a rhizobacterium with the potential to promote plant growth and tolerance to drought and salinity stress. We herein present the complete genome sequence of the Gram-positive bacterium B. pumilus ZB201701, which consists of a linear chromosome with 3,640,542 base pairs, 3,608 protein-coding sequences, 24 ribosomal RNAs, and 80 transfer RNAs. Genome analyses using bioinformatics revealed some of the putative gene clusters involved in defense mechanisms. In addition, activity analyses of the strain under salt and simulated drought stress suggested its potential tolerance to abiotic stress. Plant growth-promoting bacteria-based experiments indicated that the strain promotes the salt tolerance of maize. The complete genome of B. pumilus ZB201701 provides valuable insights into rhizobacteria-mediated salt and drought tolerance and rhizobacteria-based solutions for abiotic stress in agriculture.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic and transcriptomic insights into the survival of the subaerial cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme in arid and exposed habitats.

The cyanobacterium Nostoc flagelliforme is an extremophile that thrives under extraordinary desiccation and ultraviolet (UV) radiation conditions. To investigate its survival strategies, we performed whole-genome sequencing of N. flagelliforme CCNUN1 and transcriptional profiling of its field populations upon rehydration in BG11 medium. The genome of N. flagelliforme is 10.23 Mb in size and contains 10 825 predicted protein-encoding genes, making it one of the largest complete genomes of cyanobacteria reported to date. Comparative genomics analysis among 20 cyanobacterial strains revealed that genes related to DNA replication, recombination and repair had disproportionately high contributions to the genome expansion. The ability of N. flagelliforme to thrive under extreme abiotic stresses is supported by the acquisition of genes involved in the protection of photosynthetic apparatus, the formation of monounsaturated fatty acids, responses to UV radiation, and a peculiar role of ornithine metabolism. Transcriptome analysis revealed a distinct acclimation strategy to rehydration, including the strong constitutive expression of genes encoding photosystem I assembly factors and the involvement of post-transcriptional control mechanisms of photosynthetic resuscitation. Our results provide insights into the adaptive mechanisms of subaerial cyanobacteria in their harsh habitats and have important implications to understand the evolutionary transition of cyanobacteria from aquatic environments to terrestrial ecosystems. © 2019 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome sequence of Jatropha curcas L., a non-edible biodiesel plant, provides a resource to improve seed-related traits.

Jatropha curcas (physic nut), a non-edible oilseed crop, represents one of the most promising alternative energy sources due to its high seed oil content, rapid growth and adaptability to various environments. We report ~339 Mbp draft whole genome sequence of J. curcas var. Chai Nat using both the PacBio and Illumina sequencing platforms. We identified and categorized differentially expressed genes related to biosynthesis of lipid and toxic compound among four stages of seed development. Triacylglycerol (TAG), the major component of seed storage oil, is mainly synthesized by phospholipid:diacylglycerol acyltransferase in Jatropha, and continuous high expression of homologs of oleosin over seed development contributes to accumulation of high level of oil in kernels by preventing the breakdown of TAG. A physical cluster of genes for diterpenoid biosynthetic enzymes, including casbene synthases highly responsible for a toxic compound, phorbol ester, in seed cake, was syntenically highly conserved between Jatropha and castor bean. Transcriptomic analysis of female and male flowers revealed the up-regulation of a dozen family of TFs in female flower. Additionally, we constructed a robust species tree enabling estimation of divergence times among nine Jatropha species and five commercial crops in Malpighiales order. Our results will help researchers and breeders increase energy efficiency of this important oil seed crop by improving yield and oil content, and eliminating toxic compound in seed cake for animal feed. © 2018 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


April 21, 2020  |  

De Novo Genome Sequence Assembly of Dwarf Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. ‘Catigan Green Dwarf’) Provides Insights into Genomic Variation Between Coconut Types and Related Palm Species.

We report the first whole genome sequence (WGS) assembly and annotation of a dwarf coconut variety, ‘Catigan Green Dwarf’ (CATD). The genome sequence was generated using the PacBio SMRT sequencing platform at 15X coverage of the expected genome size of 2.15 Gbp, which was corrected with assembled 50X Illumina paired-end MiSeq reads of the same genome. The draft genome was improved through Chicago sequencing to generate a scaffold assembly that results in a total genome size of 2.1 Gbp consisting of 7,998 scaffolds with N50 of 570,487 bp. The final assembly covers around 97.6% of the estimated genome size of coconut ‘CATD’ based on homozygous k-mer peak analysis. A total of 34,958 high-confidence gene models were predicted and functionally associated to various economically important traits, such as pest/disease resistance, drought tolerance, coconut oil biosynthesis, and putative transcription factors. The assembled genome was used to infer the evolutionary relationship within the palm family based on genomic variations and synteny of coding gene sequences. Data show that at least three (3) rounds of whole genome duplication occurred and are commonly shared by these members of the Arecaceae family. A total of 7,139 unique SSR markers were designed to be used as a resource in marker-based breeding. In addition, we discovered 58,503 variants in coconut by aligning the Hainan Tall (HAT) WGS reads to the non-repetitive regions of the assembled CATD genome. The gene markers and genome-wide SSR markers established here will facilitate the development of varieties with resilience to climate change, resistance to pests and diseases, and improved oil yield and quality.Copyright © 2019 Lantican et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

Midrib Sucrose Accumulation and Sugar Transporter Gene Expression in YCS-Affected Sugarcane Leaves

Sucrose accumulation and decreased photosynthesis are early symptoms of yellow canopy syndrome (YCS) in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.), and precede the visual yellowing of the leaves. To investigate broad-scale gene expression changes during YCS-onset, transcriptome analyses coupled to metabolome analyses were performed. Across leaf tissues, the greatest number of differentially expressed genes related to the chloroplast, and the metabolic processes relating to nitrogen and carbohydrates. Five genes represented 90% of the TPM (Transcripts Per Million) associated with the downregulation of transcription during YCS-onset, which included PSII D1 (PsbA). This differential expression was consistent with a feedback regulatory effect upon photosynthesis. Broad-scale gene expression analyses did not reveal a cause for leaf sugar accumulation during YCS-onset. Interestingly, the midrib showed the greatest accumulation of sugars, followed by symptomatic lamina. To investigate if phloem loading/reloading may be compromised on a gene expression level – to lead to leaf sucrose accumulation – sucrose transport-related proteins of SWEETs, Sucrose Transporters (SUTs), H+-ATPases and H+-pyrophosphatases (H+-PPases) were characterised from a sugarcane transcriptome and expression analysed. Two clusters of Type I H+-PPases, with one upregulated and the other downregulated, were evident. Although less pronounced, a similar pattern of change was observed for the H+-ATPases. The disaccharide transporting SWEETs were downregulated after visual symptoms were present, and a monosaccharide transporting SWEET upregulated preceding, as well as after, symptom development. SUT gene expression was the least responsive to YCS development. The results are consistent with a reduction of photoassimilate movement through the phloem leading to sucrose build-up in the leaf.


April 21, 2020  |  

Computational aspects underlying genome to phenome analysis in plants.

Recent advances in genomics technologies have greatly accelerated the progress in both fundamental plant science and applied breeding research. Concurrently, high-throughput plant phenotyping is becoming widely adopted in the plant community, promising to alleviate the phenotypic bottleneck. While these technological breakthroughs are significantly accelerating quantitative trait locus (QTL) and causal gene identification, challenges to enable even more sophisticated analyses remain. In particular, care needs to be taken to standardize, describe and conduct experiments robustly while relying on plant physiology expertise. In this article, we review the state of the art regarding genome assembly and the future potential of pangenomics in plant research. We also describe the necessity of standardizing and describing phenotypic studies using the Minimum Information About a Plant Phenotyping Experiment (MIAPPE) standard to enable the reuse and integration of phenotypic data. In addition, we show how deep phenotypic data might yield novel trait-trait correlations and review how to link phenotypic data to genomic data. Finally, we provide perspectives on the golden future of machine learning and their potential in linking phenotypes to genomic features. © 2018 The Authors The Plant Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for Experimental Biology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Full-length transcriptome sequences obtained by a combination of sequencing platforms applied to heat shock proteins and polyunsaturated fatty acids biosynthesis in Pyropia haitanensis

Pyropia haitanensis is a high-yield commercial seaweed in China. Pyropia haitanensis farms often suffer from problems such as severe germplasm degeneration, while the mechanisms underlying resistance to abiotic stresses remain unknown because of lacking genomic information. Although many previous studies focused on using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, the short-read sequences generated by NGS generally prevent the assembly of full-length transcripts, and then limit screening functional genes. In the present study, which was based on hybrid sequencing (NGS and single-molecular real-time sequencing) of the P. haitanensis thallus transcriptome, we obtained high-quality full-length transcripts with a mean length of 2998 bp and an N50 value of 3366 bp. A total of 14,773 unigenes (93.52%) were annotated in at least one database, while approximately 60% of all unigenes were assembled by short Illumina reads. Moreover, we herein suggested that the genes involved in the biosynthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids and heat shock proteins play an important role in the process of development and resistance to abiotic stresses in P. haitanensis. The present study, together with previously published ones, may facilitate seaweed transcriptome research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Mutation of a bHLH transcription factor allowed almond domestication.

Wild almond species accumulate the bitter and toxic cyanogenic diglucoside amygdalin. Almond domestication was enabled by the selection of genotypes harboring sweet kernels. We report the completion of the almond reference genome. Map-based cloning using an F1 population segregating for kernel taste led to the identification of a 46-kilobase gene cluster encoding five basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors, bHLH1 to bHLH5. Functional characterization demonstrated that bHLH2 controls transcription of the P450 monooxygenase-encoding genes PdCYP79D16 and PdCYP71AN24, which are involved in the amygdalin biosynthetic pathway. A nonsynonymous point mutation (Leu to Phe) in the dimerization domain of bHLH2 prevents transcription of the two cytochrome P450 genes, resulting in the sweet kernel trait. Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.


April 21, 2020  |  

Wild relatives of maize

Crop domestication changed the course of human evolution, and domestication of maize (Zea mays L. subspecies mays), today the world’s most important crop, enabled civilizations to flourish and has played a major role in shaping the world we know today. Archaeological and ethnobotanical research help us understand the development of the cultures and the movements of the peoples who carried maize to new areas where it continued to adapt. Ancient remains of maize cobs and kernels have been found in the place of domestication, the Balsas River Valley (~9,000 years before present era), and the cultivation center, the Tehuacan Valley (~5,000 years before present era), and have been used to study the process of domestication. Paleogenomic data showed that some of the genes controlling the stem and inflorescence architecture were comparable to modern maize, while other genes controlling ear shattering and starch biosynthesis retain high levels of variability, similar to those found in the wild relative teosinte. These results indicate that the domestication process was both gradual and complex, where different genetic loci were selected at different points in time, and that the transformation of teosinte to maize was completed in the last 5,000 years. Mesoamerican native cultures domesticated teosinte and developed maize from a 6 cm long, popping-kernel ear to what we now recognize as modern maize with its wide variety in ear size, kernel texture, color, size, and adequacy for diverse uses and also invented nixtamalization, a process key to maximizing its nutrition. Used directly for human and animal consumption, processed food products, bioenergy, and many cultural applications, it is now grown on six of the world’s seven continents. The study of its evolution and domestication from the wild grass teosinte helps us understand the nature of genetic diversity of maize and its wild relatives and gene expression. Genetic barriers to direct use of teosinte or Tripsacum in maize breeding have challenged our ability to identify valuable genes and traits, let alone incorporate them into elite, modern varieties. Genomic information and newer genetic technologies will facilitate the use of wild relatives in crop improvement; hence it is more important than ever to ensure their conservation and availability, fundamental to future food security. In situ conservation efforts dedicated to preserving remnant populations of wild relatives in Mexico are key to safeguarding the genetic diversity of maize and its genepool, as well as enabling these species to continue to adapt to dynamic climate and environmental changes. Genebank ex situ efforts are crucial to securely maintain collected wild relative resources and to provide them for gene discovery and other research efforts.


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