Support a “moonshot” for botany

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Research presented this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights advances in plant genomics and includes a roadmap for the enormous task of sequencing plant genomes around the world.

The article, titled “Green Plant Genomes: What We Know in an Age of Rapidly Expanding Opportunity,” highlights the importance of this massive undertaking.

“Nearly half a million species of plants inhabit the Earth today and the secrets to understanding almost everything about them are hidden in the sequences of their DNA (the plant genome),” said Dr. W. John Kress, senior author of the article and Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian. “Plants are the foundation of environments across the planet and deciphering their genomes will be a game-changer for understanding nearly every aspect of our own lives, from improving food and medicine to inspiring artists and designing. improving the stability of ecosystems.”

The effort required to sequence plant genomes is no small task, but it is the goal of the Earth BioGenome project, “a ‘moonshot’ for biology, [that] aims to sequence, catalog and characterize the genomes of all eukaryotic biodiversity on Earth [including plants, animals, and fungi] over a period of ten years. The article, one of ten published this week in a special issue of PNAS, is co-authored by an international group of plant scientists and presents a map that will help researchers around the world achieve this ambitious goal.

An organism’s genome contains all the instructions needed to carry out life’s processes and it is no surprise that genomes are extremely complex. Sequencing and assembling whole genomes will allow researchers to understand how species are related and evolved from other species; how they perform essential biological functions; and how they interact and react to their environment. The sequencing of whole plant genomes is particularly complicated compared to other groups of organisms for several reasons, but largely because there are many species of plants and they have highly variable and often extremely complex.

Consider that as of today, there are only 883 whole genome sequences available for green plants, compared to 2,019 whole genome sequences available for vertebrates; yet there are over 400,000 species of green plants compared to only 73,340 species of vertebrates. The variation in genome size among plants is also staggering – some plants have genomes as small as 65,000 individual nucleotides (the molecules that make up the four “base pairs” of the genetic code) and as large as almost 150 billion. of nucleotides. Understanding plant genomes is incredibly complex.

Unraveling this complexity is the basis of this article. The authors present a roadmap that will help the global scientific community collect samples using new partnerships such as the Global Genome Initiative for Gardens and the Global Genome Biodiversity Network, as well as the latest advances in software and technologies that will help researchers sequence and assemble highly complex plants. genomes. With this new perspective, botanists will be able to advance plant genome sequencing like never before.

A large project is underway to sequence the genome of all complex species on Earth

More information:
W. John Kress et al, Green Plant Genomes: What We Know in an Age of Expanding Opportunity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2115640118

Provided by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas

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