During his keynote speech at the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting, science writer Carl Zimmer discussed the status of personalized medicine following the completion of the Human Genome Project. In an article published online October 25, 2012 in Tree Physiology, researchers including Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jerry Tuskan present a similar status report on the impact of the first tree genome, the black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa).
“In its broadest application the impact of the genome sequence is undeniable,” they wrote, “as evidenced by the widespread influence of the main publication describing the genome sequence, which has now been cited over 1000 times in a wide range of journals and embraced by many disciplines.”
The poplar was selected for sequencing by the DOE JGI in 2002 as a potential bioenergy feedstock crop and model organism for woody perennial plant development. Tuskan spearheaded the effort, which culminated in the release of the genome in 2006.
Since making the poplar genome available, Tuskan and his colleagues report, the research community has used the data to move from just learning about the tree’s genes and their functions to studying genetic variations of the reference species to plant-microbe interactions. They noted that they need more time to reach a goal set since obtaining the poplar genome – functionally characterizing ecosystem functions. With the poplar genome on its third round of improved assembly and annotation, they said, “each round… gets us closer to having a system-wide understanding of some of the largest and longest-living organisms on Earth.”