JUL 29, 2017 3:26 PM PDT

Sequencing the Genomes of 10,000 Plants

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

There is a massive effort to sequence the genomes of every living thing on earth. To that end, plant scientists have now announced a project to help that effort. One of the major genomics centers in the world, BGI (in Beijing) and the China National GeneBank (CNGB) have announced 10KP - their plan to sequence 10,000 genomes or more, crossing every major plant clade and eukaryotic microbes. The study will build on a nearly completed effort, the 1KP project, which determined the transcriptome of 1000 plants.

Flowers - Brisbane, Australia / Credit: Carmen Leitch

The transcriptome is the collection of all the messenger RNAs of an organism, or the transcribed portions of the genome, rather than every base pair of information the organisms' genome contains. While 1KP yielded many new findings and over 50 publications, 10KP will look at the entire genome of plants and microbes. It is thus expected to produce a wealth of new insight.

Douglas Soltis, a plant biologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville, compared the 10KP project to "1KP on steroids.” Another "wonderful thing" about the work, he said, is that reference genomes will now be available for "the numerous plant researchers studying nonmodel systems.”

There will be challenges presented by this work; one example is the enormous amount of data that will be generated and will need analysis. "Existing tools and methods are unable to handle the extraordinary scale of the data," explained Stephen Smith, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Another issue will be paperwork, said Gane Ka-Shu Wong, a genomicist, and bioinformaticist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Plants will have to cross borders, and scientists must comply with the Nagoya Protocol, which aims to ensure equitable genetic resource sharing in the international arena.

However, plants are also a lot more cooperative than animals. "You don't have to chase down some animal; you can usually just go to a botanical garden," Wong said. He also pointed out the cooperation evident among plant scientists.

They are ready to get going with this study, which will focus on collecting specimens over the next two years while the researchers “hope to wrap up the sequencing and analysis in five years,” noted Wong. "We're ready to start sequencing yesterday.” After this initiative was announced at a meeting in Shenzhen, "several people came up already wanting to send samples," said Wong.

This work will be a part of the Earth BioGenome Project, which is still under development. That proposal is seeking to gather genomic data for the 1.5 million eukaryotes on the planet. Learn more about 10KP from the video.

 

Sources: Science

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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