June 1, 2021  |  

Draft genome of horseweed illuminates expansion of gene families that might endow herbicide resistance.

Conyza canadensis (horseweed), a member of the Compositae (Asteraceae) family, was the first broadleaf weed to evolve resistance to glyphosate. Horseweed, one of the most problematic weeds in the world, is a true diploid (2n=2X=18) with the smallest genome of any known agricultural weed (335 Mb). Thus, it is an appropriate candidate to help us understand the genetic and genomic basis of weediness. We undertook a draft de novo genome assembly of horseweed by combining data from multiple sequencing platforms (454 GS-FLX, Illumina HiSeq 2000 and PacBio RS) using various libraries with different insertion sizes (~350 bp, ~600 bp, ~3 kb and ~10 kb) of a Tennessee-accessed, glyphosate-resistant horseweed biotype. From 116.3 Gb (~350× coverage) of data, the genome was assembled into 13,966 scaffolds with N50 =33,561 bp. The assembly covered 92.3% of the genome, including the complete chloroplast genome (~153 kb) and a nearly-complete mitochondrial genome (~450 kb in 120 scaffolds). The nuclear genome is comprised of 44,592 protein-coding genes. Genome re-sequencing of seven additional horseweed biotypes was performed. These sequence data were assembled and used to analyze genome variation. Simple sequence repeat and single nucleotide polymorphisms were surveyed. Genomic patterns were detected that associated with glyphosate-resistant or –susceptible biotypes. The draft genome will be useful to better understand weediness, the evolution of herbicide resistance, and to devise new management strategies. The genome will also be useful as another reference genome in the Compositae. To our knowledge, this paper represents the first published draft genome of an agricultural weed.

April 21, 2020  |  

Optimized Cas9 expression systems for highly efficient Arabidopsis genome editing facilitate isolation of complex alleles in a single generation.

Genetic resources for the model plant Arabidopsis comprise mutant lines defective in almost any single gene in reference accession Columbia. However, gene redundancy and/or close linkage often render it extremely laborious or even impossible to isolate a desired line lacking a specific function or set of genes from segregating populations. Therefore, we here evaluated strategies and efficiencies for the inactivation of multiple genes by Cas9-based nucleases and multiplexing. In first attempts, we succeeded in isolating a mutant line carrying a 70 kb deletion, which occurred at a frequency of ~?1.6% in the T2 generation, through PCR-based screening of numerous individuals. However, we failed to isolate a line lacking Lhcb1 genes, which are present in five copies organized at two loci in the Arabidopsis genome. To improve efficiency of our Cas9-based nuclease system, regulatory sequences controlling Cas9 expression levels and timing were systematically compared. Indeed, use of DD45 and RPS5a promoters improved efficiency of our genome editing system by approximately 25-30-fold in comparison to the previous ubiquitin promoter. Using an optimized genome editing system with RPS5a promoter-driven Cas9, putatively quintuple mutant lines lacking detectable amounts of Lhcb1 protein represented approximately 30% of T1 transformants. These results show how improved genome editing systems facilitate the isolation of complex mutant alleles, previously considered impossible to generate, at high frequency even in a single (T1) generation.

April 21, 2020  |  

Multiple modes of convergent adaptation in the spread of glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus tuberculatus.

The selection pressure exerted by herbicides has led to the repeated evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds. The evolution of herbicide resistance on contemporary timescales in turn provides an outstanding opportunity to investigate key questions about the genetics of adaptation, in particular the relative importance of adaptation from new mutations, standing genetic variation, or geographic spread of adaptive alleles through gene flow. Glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus tuberculatus poses one of the most significant threats to crop yields in the Midwestern United States, with both agricultural populations and herbicide resistance only recently emerging in Canada. To understand the evolutionary mechanisms driving the spread of resistance, we sequenced and assembled the A. tuberculatus genome and investigated the origins and population genomics of 163 resequenced glyphosate-resistant and susceptible individuals from Canada and the United States. In Canada, we discovered multiple modes of convergent evolution: in one locality, resistance appears to have evolved through introductions of preadapted US genotypes, while in another, there is evidence for the independent evolution of resistance on genomic backgrounds that are historically nonagricultural. Moreover, resistance on these local, nonagricultural backgrounds appears to have occurred predominantly through the partial sweep of a single haplotype. In contrast, resistant haplotypes arising from the Midwestern United States show multiple amplification haplotypes segregating both between and within populations. Therefore, while the remarkable species-wide diversity of A. tuberculatus has facilitated geographic parallel adaptation of glyphosate resistance, more recently established agricultural populations are limited to adaptation in a more mutation-limited framework.Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

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.

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