Biotech Updates

Scientists Sequence Genome of the Christmas Tree

May 29, 2013

Scientists from Sweden's Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) in Umeå and other research institutions have sequenced the genome of the Norway spruce, more popularly known as the Christmas tree. It is the first gymnosperm reported to be genetically sequenced. This breakthrough is expected to pave the way towards understanding of the unique development, adaptation, and evolution of gymnosperms.

The Norway spruce is the largest genome to be mapped, seven times larger than that of humans. The scientists have identified about 29,000 functional genes, only a little more than what humans have, and according to the study, this is due to "genome obesity," caused by extensive repatitive DNA sequences accumulated over several hundred million years of evolutionary history. While other plant and animal species have efficient mechanisms to do away with such repetitions, conifers do not appear to operate the same.

"It is remarkable that the spruce is doing so well despite this unnecessary genetic load," said Professor Par Ingvarsson of UPSC. He added that the project's greatest challenge was to get the approximately 20 billion "letters" found in the spruce's genetic code into their correct order, rather than getting the actual DNA sequences.

Read more about the sequencing project at and