Biotech Updates

International Team of Scientists Release Whole Genomes and Epigenomes of More than 1,000 Arabidopsis Plants

July 20, 2016

Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) is a favored research subject for plant science. Much of today's knowledge about the inner workings of plants comes from studies in this unimposing, but globally distributed weed. In a major milestone, the "1001 Genome Project", led by Detlef Weigel from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany and Magnus Nordborg from the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna, Austria, has recently completed the genome sequences from 1,135 individuals collected all over the world.

The new results revealed previously unappreciated aspects of the evolutionary history of this important model plant. Based on the genetic differences, the research team identified six different groups of modern Arabidopsis plants, with the vast majority belonging to a group that has evolved after the last ice age and then spread fast around the world, just as the modern human.

Weigel says the other five groups are like Neanderthals amongst the plants, and evolved before the last ice age and have survived as isolated, genetically differentiated populations on the Canary and Cape Verde islands, on Sicily, in North Africa and throughout the Iberian Peninsula. These relicts are restricted to more natural, undisturbed habitats, explaining their much more limited modern distribution.

More information and access to all data are available at the 1001 Genomes Project website.