URBANA Although the apple genome has already been sequenced, it can still take years for an apple breeder to see the first actual piece of fruit on a tree. That's why University of Illinois plant molecular geneticist Schuyler Korban jumped at the chance to help sequence the genome of the woodland strawberry a close relative of the apple that blooms in a mere 15 weeks, making his work much more efficient.
"The woodland strawberry is a good surrogate system for genetic studies of other fruits in the same Rosaceae family," said Korban. "With the complete genome sequence of the woodland strawberry in hand, we can use the strategy of comparative genomics to investigate similarities and/or differences between strawberry and apple or strawberry and peach, among others, to learn more about genes involved in various traits, such as fruiting and fruit quality. We can also use the strawberry to do functional genomic studies. It also provides us with a larger tool box to do more targeted breeding.
"The woodland strawberry genome can be compared side-by-side with the already sequenced genome of the apple to identify genes that control certain traits such as flavor, nutritional composition, and flowering time," Korban said.
The woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca, or F. vesca, becomes the second smallest plant genome to be sequenced. The smallest plant genome sequenced is that of Arabidopsis.
"Arabidopsis is used a lot as a model plant species for pursuing genetic and physiological studies because you can get results very quickly, but it produces pods, called siliques, rather than fruit," Korban said. "I wanted a fruit model system so that I can evaluate the function of apple genes that control various fruit traits such as those for flavor, texture, aroma, and other characteristics in a short period of time, and strawberry is a great model to pursue such studies."
The cultivated varie
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University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences