Researchers in Wales and the United States have collaborated to complete the first high-resolution, comprehensive genetic map of a promising energy crop called miscanthus. The results published in the current edition of the peer-reviewed, online journal PLoS One provide a significant breakthrough towards advancing the production of bioenergy.
The breakthrough results from the long-term collaboration between energy crop company Ceres, Inc., based in Thousand Oaks, California, USA, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in Wales. The IBERS team created the collection of genetically related plants and Ceres then sequenced and analyzed the DNA. In other crops, this type of comprehensive genetic mapping has significantly shortened product development timelines.
As published in the journal article, Ceres researchers mapped all 19 chromosomes of miscanthus, a towering cane-like grass that can be used as a feedstock for advanced biofuels, bio-products and biopower. The multi-year project involved generation and analysis of more than 400 million DNA sequences creating a blueprint of the genetic alphabet of the plant.
Among the massive volumes of data, researchers found 20,000 genetic differences, called markers, that allow geneticists to differentiate individual plants based on small variations in their DNA. More than 3,500 of these markers were used to create the genetic map, and are valuable for crop improvement purposes. In contrast, previously announced mapping projects discovered only about 600 markers and did not fully characterize the structure of all the miscanthus chromosomes, a necessary step in establishing a high-tech plant breeding program.
Ceres Chief Scientific Officer Richard Flavell, PhD, FRS, CBE says that the rapid improvements in breeding made possible by this mapping project are needed for miscanthus to be more widely used as an energy cro
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council