June 1, 2021  |  

Resolving the ‘dark matter’ in genomes.

Second-generation sequencing has brought about tremendous insights into the genetic underpinnings of biology. However, there are many functionally important and medically relevant regions of genomes that are currently difficult or impossible to sequence, resulting in incomplete and fragmented views of genomes. Two main causes are (i) limitations to read DNA of extreme sequence content (GC-rich or AT-rich regions, low complexity sequence contexts) and (ii) insufficient read lengths which leave various forms of structural variation unresolved and result in mapping ambiguities.

April 21, 2020  |  

Draft genome sequence resource of switchgrass rust pathogen, Puccinia novopanici isolate Ard-01.

Puccinia novopanici is an important biotrophic fungal pathogen that causes rust disease in switchgrass. Lack of genomic resources for P. novopanici has hampered the progress towards developing effective disease resistance against this pathogen. Therefore, we have sequenced the whole genome of P. novopanici and generated a framework to understand pathogenicity mechanisms, identify effectors, repeat element invasion, genome evolution, and comparative genomics among Puccinia species in the future. Long and short read sequences were generated from P. novopanici genomic DNA by PacBio and Illumina technologies, respectively, and assembled a 99.9 megabase (Mb) genome. Transcripts of P. novopanici were predicted from assembled genome using MAKER and were further validated by RNAseq data. The genome sequence information of P. novopanici will be a valuable resource for researchers working on monocot rusts and plant disease resistance in general.

April 21, 2020  |  

Plantibacter flavus, Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens Endophytes Provide Host-Specific Growth Promotion of Arabidopsis thaliana, Basil, Lettuce, and Bok Choy Plants.

A collection of bacterial endophytes isolated from stem tissues of plants growing in soils highly contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons were screened for plant growth-promoting capabilities. Twenty-seven endophytic isolates significantly improved the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana plants in comparison to that of uninoculated control plants. The five most beneficial isolates, one strain each of Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens and two strains of Plantibacter flavus were further examined for growth promotion in Arabidopsis, lettuce, basil, and bok choy plants. Host-specific plant growth promotion was observed when plants were inoculated with the five bacterial strains. P. flavus strain M251 increased the total biomass and total root length of Arabidopsis plants by 4.7 and 5.8 times, respectively, over that of control plants and improved lettuce and basil root growth, while P. flavus strain M259 promoted Arabidopsis shoot and root growth, lettuce and basil root growth, and bok choy shoot growth. A genome comparison between P. flavus strains M251 and M259 showed that both genomes contain up to 70 actinobacterial putative plant-associated genes and genes involved in known plant-beneficial pathways, such as those for auxin and cytokinin biosynthesis and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate deaminase production. This study provides evidence of direct plant growth promotion by Plantibacter flavusIMPORTANCE The discovery of new plant growth-promoting bacteria is necessary for the continued development of biofertilizers, which are environmentally friendly and cost-efficient alternatives to conventional chemical fertilizers. Biofertilizer effects on plant growth can be inconsistent due to the complexity of plant-microbe interactions, as the same bacteria can be beneficial to the growth of some plant species and neutral or detrimental to others. We examined a set of bacterial endophytes isolated from plants growing in a unique petroleum-contaminated environment to discover plant growth-promoting bacteria. We show that strains of Plantibacter flavus exhibit strain-specific plant growth-promoting effects on four different plant species.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.

April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-Scale Sequence Disruption Following Biolistic Transformation in Rice and Maize.

Biolistic transformation delivers nucleic acids into plant cells by bombarding the cells with microprojectiles, which are micron-scale, typically gold particles. Despite the wide use of this technique, little is known about its effect on the cell’s genome. We biolistically transformed linear 48-kb phage lambda and two different circular plasmids into rice (Oryza sativa) and maize (Zea mays) and analyzed the results by whole genome sequencing and optical mapping. Although some transgenic events showed simple insertions, others showed extreme genome damage in the form of chromosome truncations, large deletions, partial trisomy, and evidence of chromothripsis and breakage-fusion bridge cycling. Several transgenic events contained megabase-scale arrays of introduced DNA mixed with genomic fragments assembled by nonhomologous or microhomology-mediated joining. Damaged regions of the genome, assayed by the presence of small fragments displaced elsewhere, were often repaired without a trace, presumably by homology-dependent repair (HDR). The results suggest a model whereby successful biolistic transformation relies on a combination of end joining to insert foreign DNA and HDR to repair collateral damage caused by the microprojectiles. The differing levels of genome damage observed among transgenic events may reflect the stage of the cell cycle and the availability of templates for HDR. © 2019 American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights reserved.

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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