Populus trichocarpa was the first tree species whose whole genome was sequenced, assembled and annotated by the DOE JGI for bioenergy applications. This project has two major aims: 1) document the evolutionary process (i.e., the accumulation of mutations) that a single poplar tree undergoes during its lifetime; and, 2) examine the hypothesis that perennial plants such as poplar trees employ an adaptive immunity system that uses genome-encoded immune memory. For the first part of the project, researchers will look at resequencing data for meristematic tissues from three 100- to 150-years-old poplar trees. The data will be aligned to the Populus reference genome to develop an accurate molecular clock for short-term evolution in poplar and will form a keystone study in the understanding of plant genome evolution. Additionally, this project has the potential to reveal completely new immune strategies in plants. Discovery of an adaptive immune system in plants would have a major impact on global agriculture as it may provide a generic strategy to protect plants against common pathogens.
Proposer’s Name: Rotem Sorek, Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel)