Crop Biotech Update

International Team Publishes Sunflower Genome Sequence

May 24, 2017

An international research team, including researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) has published the first sunflower genome sequence. The research team in North America and Europe sequenced the genome of the domesticated sunflower Helianthus annuus L., and also conducted comparative and genome-wide analyses, which provide insights about the evolutionary history of Asterids, a subgroup of flowering plants that includes potatoes, tomatoes, and coffee.

Sunflower is an important global oil crop, and has potential for climate change adaptation as it maintains yields despite environmental stresses, including drought. The team 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.

Paper co-author John M. Burke, professor of plant biology and member of the UGA Plant Center said that the sunflower genome is over 40 percent larger than the maize genome, and roughly 20 percent larger than the human genome, and its highly repetitive nature made it a unique challenge for assembly.

The results of this study are available in the open access paper published in Nature. For other details, read the article at UGA Today.