New Phytologist dedicates an entire issue to various research directions based on the tree genome.
Building off the Eucalyptus grandis tree genome that researchers at the DOE Joint Genome Institute helped sequence and analyze, several researchers demonstrate the utility of the reference genome in the June 2015 special issue of New Phytologist.
Based on the reference eucalyptus genome, two major themes that scientists have focused on are described in a special issue of New Phytologist. These are that adaptive evolution can be applied to crop breeding for bioenergy applications, among others, and that the genome sequence enables the development of tools to further improve this genomic resource.
As a fast growing tree found in multiple continents, eucalyptus is of interest to the U.S. Department of Energy as a potential biofuel feedstock. For this reason, it was selected in 2008 as a Community Science Program project for the DOE Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. In June 2014, an international consortium of researchers, including DOE JGI scientists, released the reference genome of Eucalyptus grandis. A brief video featuring Jerry Tuskan, a longtime DOE JGI collaborator at Oak Ridge National Lab, and a member of the original team who worked on the eucalyptus genome, can be viewed at http://bit.ly/eucalyptusTuskan.
In a showcase of how the global research community has already begun harnessing the eucalyptus genomic resources made available by the DOE JGI through the plant portal Phytozome, the June 2015 issue of New Phytologist was dedicated to all things eucalyptus. The effort was spearheaded by DOE JGI collaborator Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, one of the leads on the eucalyptus genome CSP project, and a co-author of several of the papers published in the special issue.
“Compared to plant genomes sequenced to date, [eucalyptus] represents an independent evolutionary experiment on what it means to be a large woody perennial plant evolving in diverse, and often stressful, habitats,” he and co-author Steven Strauss wrote in the lead commentary for the issue. “The papers in this issue show that the genome sequencing investment by the US Department of Energy – and the associated inputs and collaborative efforts from many scientific and industrial communities around the globe – is truly an accomplishment to celebrate.”
Several studies in the special issue focus on various features of the eucalyptus genome, primarily with an eye toward improving wood production for bioenergy applications, while others are analyses or tools that can further improve the reference genome. One such paper comes from French researchers who developed genetic maps that helped improve the eucalyptus reference assembly last year, and expands on that work. Ultimately, Eucalyptus could provide both a sustainable source of bioenergy through its wood, as well as multiple bioproducts based on its well-known oil content.
University of Pretoria
- U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science
- Strauss SH et al. Plant scientists celebrate new woody plant genome. New Phytol. 2015 Jun;206(4);1185-7. doi: 10.1111/nph.13443.