Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wheat genome study speeds up

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), a global team led by Canadians, is ahead of the five-year schedule to discover the complete genome for bread-quality wheats.

It now seems that it will reach its goal within two years following success in assembling the complete genome for Chinese spring bread wheat.

“The assembly “represents a major breakthrough for the IWGSC integrated strategy towards delivering a high-quality reference sequence for each of the 21 bread wheat chromosomes,” project leader Nils Stein, of German plant research centre IPK Gatersleben, said in a release.

Where the IWGSC’s strategy is to study wheat one chromosome at a time, the assembly announced Wednesday was charted using a combination of software, computer programming and bioinformatics tools to look at virtually the entire genome.

The new data can now be integrated with physical-map-based sequence data to produce a “high-quality, ordered sequence” for each wheat chromosome, precisely locating genes and other markers along the chromosomes and providing “invaluable” tools for wheat breeders, the consortium said.

The consortium now expects to have a complete picture of the wheat genome, 17 billion base pairs in all, with a clear idea of how the genes are ordered, within two years.

Given that the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome, earlier estimates had suggested such work would take four or five more years, the University of Saskatchewan said in a separate release.