MADISON University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists are part of an international consortium that has successfully sequenced and analyzed the potato genome. The consortium's work, which is described in the current issue of Nature, turned up more than 39,000 genes and is expected to speed potato research and breeding projects around the globe.
The Wisconsin team's contribution involved uncovering important information about the structure of potato's 12 chromosomes.
"The most important part of this project was actually finding the genes. That was the main goal," says UW-Madison plant geneticist Jiming Jiang, one of 20 principal investigators from 14 countries who worked on the project. "But the group still needed our expertise to help solve some of the puzzles."
Jiang is an expert in cytogenetics, the study of the structure and function of chromosomes. He and fellow UW scientists Marina Iovene and Giovana Torres used microscopic tools to reveal unique physical characteristics of each of the potato plant's 12 chromosomes, such as the location of gene-rich and gene-poor regions and -- particularly important -- where each chromosome begins and ends within the genome sequence.
"Through sequencing alone, it is difficult to reveal this kind of information. But cytogenetic analysis can help connect the sequence information to individual chromosomes. Cytogenetic mapping provides a bird's-eye view of the potato chromosomes," explains Jiang, who made similar contributions to international efforts to sequence the rice, corn (maize) and papaya genomes.
Potato is the world's most important non-grain food crop. Each year, more than 200 million tons are eaten worldwide. In Wisconsin potatoes are grown on more than 63,000 acres, making the state the third-largest producer in America.
Historically, potato has been notoriously difficult to work with. It is a tetraploid, meaning its cells contain four copies of each chro
|Contact: Jiming Jiang|
University of Wisconsin-Madison