• First sunflower genome sequence
    • Posted by Alan Flurry - May 24, 2017
    • They follow the sun's path throughout the day - hence their name in the Romance languages - and this news about the sunflower genome turns our attention to a new paper in Nature:

      [UGA] researchers are part of an international team that has published the first sunflower genome sequence. This new resource will assist future research programs using genetic tools to improve crop resilience and oil production.

      They published their findings today in the journal Nature.

      Known for its beauty and also as an important source of food, the sunflower is a global oil crop that shows promise for climate change adaptation because it can maintain stable yields across a wide variety of environmental conditions, including drought. However, assembling the sunflower genome has until recently been difficult, because it mostly consists of highly similar, related sequences.

      The research team in North America and Europe sequenced the genome of the domesticated sunflower Helianthus annuus L. They also performed comparative and genome-wide analyses, which provide insights into the evolutionary history of Asterids, a subgroup of flowering plants that includes potatoes, tomatoes and coffee.

      They identified new candidate genes and reconstructed genetic networks that control flowering time and oil metabolism, two major sunflower breeding traits, and found that the flowering time networks have been shaped by the past duplication of the entire genome. Their findings suggest that ancient copies of genes can retain their functionality and still influence traits of interest after tens of millions of years.

      "As the first reference sequence of the sunflower genome, it's quite the accomplishment," said paper co-author John M. Burke, professor of plant biology and member of the UGA Plant Center. "The sunflower genome is over 40 percent larger than the maize [corn] genome, and roughly 20 percent larger than the human genome, and its highly repetitive nature made it a unique challenge for assembly."

      Powerful new work from another highly collaborative international effort. Congratulations to the research team and to the UGA Plant Center. The researchers did not touch on this but it is a proven fact that a field of sunflowers will improve most moods. For sustained results, repetition is also recommended.