Blacksburg, Va. The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium (PGSC), an international team of scientists from industry and academia in 14 countries, has released a draft sequence of the potato genome with the help of a Virginia Tech researcher.
Richard Veilleux, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (www.cals.vt.edu/), contributed a unique phureja type of potato variety that accelerated the development of a blueprint for one of the world's most important food crops. Widely anticipated to assist scientists in improving the yield, quality, nutritional value, and disease resistance of potato varieties, the genome sequence will reduce the 10-12 years plant breeders need to develop new varieties today.
"The potato genome sequence will allow you to locate genes for any type of trait you want," Veilleux said.
Each copy of the potato genome consists of a dozen chromosomes and has a length of approximately 840 million base pairs, making it a medium-sized plant genome. Most lines of potato, such as the widely cultivated Solanum tuberosum, have four slightly different copies of the genome that can be traced to parents and grandparents, with some recombination occurring during sexual cycles. Although the PGSC began sequencing a potato species with such a complex genome, researchers turned to Veilleux for a unique line with only one copy of the genome (known as a "monoploid") to simplify and complement their work.
Veilleux has spent more than 25 years of his career investigating homozygous varieties of potatoes to create hybrid lines. An organism is homozygous when identical alleles of each gene are present in both chromosomes that pair during cell division. Homozygous organisms have less genetic information to analyze during the genome sequencing process, and they pass biological traits to all subsequent generations, making them "true-breeding organisms." On the othe
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