High quality genomes help researchers in the conservation and primary production sectors to better predict the biology, appearance, behaviour, disease status and economic value of an organism. This critical information can then inform breeding and management decisions.
The rediscovery of the ancient Rosetta stone, with its translation of a decree in three scripts (Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts and Ancient Greek), enabled classical scholars to translate hieroglyphics for the first time. Although this might not sound relevant to genomics, the Gillenia holds a similar key position in the evolution of Rosaceae tree crops (such as apples and pear).
The Gillenia genome provides a reference to translate the breadth of existing knowledge on the well-studied species of apple, pear, peach, strawberry, and raspberry.
What we’re doing
Genomics Aotearoa-funded researchers based at Plant and Food Research were the first to sequence Gillenia in 2021. This genome assembly helped verify key aspects, including
Genomics Aotearoa-funded researchers based at Plant and Food Research were the first to sequence Gillenia in 2021. This genome assembly helped verify key aspects, including that Gillenia is an unduplicated genome.
Genome duplication, where an organism inherits two copies of the genome of its parents, instead of only one copy, is relatively common in plant genome evolution. Duplication happened at some stage during the evolution of the family that includes Gillenia, apple and pear.
“Genome duplication is an important source of novelty in evolution, providing new genetic material for selection, the result of which is specialised or new gene functions. Without such gene duplication the opportunity for species to cope with changing environments would be severely limited,” David Chagné from Plant & Food Research explained.
Now, Plant & Food Research researchers led by David have produced a new genome assembly using Pacbio sequencing technology. They collaborated with Dr Amandine Cornille from CNRS, France who studies the effect of transposable elements (DNA sequences that can change their position within a genome) on fruit domestication.
The team have now sequenced genomes of domesticated and wild representatives of apricot, apple, pear, and almond to determine if transposable elements have a role in characteristics selected during domestication.
Gillenia is being established as a model to further understand the critical biological processes that coordinate cellular activity (known as transcriptional regulation) of fruit flesh development in apple.
“We have fresh insight into differences and what is shared between fleshy and dry fruit development. Understanding the key drivers of fleshy, tasty fruit has enormous potential for further developments for our tree crop production in Aotearoa,” David said.
As an unduplicated genome, Gillenia holds a key position in the evolution of Rosaceae tree crops, providing the means to compare genomes across the entire Rosaceae plant family. Gillenia’s growth, flowering and fruiting characteristics can be mapped among species in the family.
The knowledge gained through this work has enormous potential for further developments for our tree crop production, with global benefits.
Read more about High Quality Genomes and Population Genomics here