Cotton Genome Sequenced
December 20, 2012

Simple Cotton Genome Sequenced By International Team Of Experts

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

In research that could help the development of next-generation biofuels, an international team of scientists has successfully sequenced the genome of the most basic form of cotton plant.

The US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI), along with representatives of 30 other institutions from across the globe, has completed a high-quality draft assembly of the Gossypium raimondii genome, a forerunner of the modern species of the cash crop that was indigenous to North and South America, the organization announced on Wednesday.

Furthermore, the researchers compared that genome to several other sets of cotton data provided by officials at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). As a result, they were able to discover how the fiber-producing plant evolved over a period of several million years, from wild varieties to the domesticated species that currently are linked to the textile industry, the JGI said.

That discovery could shed new light on fiber composition, which in turn could aid bioenergy researchers developing new types of fuel, according to lead researcher Jeremy Schmutz, chief of the JGI Plant Program as well as a faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

"This cotton data will help accelerate the study of gene function, particularly cellulose biosynthesis, the understanding of which is fundamental to improved biofuels production," Schmutz said in a statement. "In addition, the unique structure of the cotton fiber makes it useful in bioremediation, and accelerated cotton crop improvement also promises to improve water efficiency and reduce pesticide use."

According to the JGI, most cotton plants growing in the US today are polyploids, meaning that they are essentially hybrids of two different types of the plant -- A-genome cotton and D-genome cotton -- each with different properties. The researchers explain that G. raimondii was chosen as the subject for the sequencing process due in part to the fact that it has "a smaller genome and fewer repetitive elements" than other types of Gossypium plants.

"Learning more about the genetic contributions of the D- and A-genomes to the common cotton species can help researchers improve fiber traits," the JGI explained.

University of Georgia professor Andrew Paterson, the leader of the community sequencing program proposal to which the Energy Department group contributed, added that the study "reveals evolutionary processes salient to all plants and provides a strategy to better understand the genome of many other crops, such as canola, wheat, and peanut."

The researchers who sequenced and assembled the 760-million basepair genome detail their work in the December 20, 2012 edition of the journal Nature.

"This sequence is a cornerstone that will help advance our knowledge so we more thoroughly understand the biology that leads to enhanced yield, improved fiber quality, and better stress tolerance, all improvements that will benefit growers in the not-too-distant future," said Don Jones, Director of Agricultural Research at Cotton Incorporated.