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Crop Biotech Update

International Research Team Publishes Barley Pan-Genome

December 9, 2020
Photo Source: IPK Leibniz Institute/Andreas Bähring

An international team led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Cultured Plant Research (IPK), together with colleagues from James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee has unraveled the species-wide genetic diversity of domesticated barley. With the complete genome sequencing of 20 diverse genotypes, the researchers completed the first step in decoding the genetic information of the entire species - the barley pan-genome.

The research team used species-wide genetic diversity data to identify and select 20 highly diverse genotypes for complete sequencing from around 22,000 barley seed samples from the federal ex-situ gene bank at the IPK. "Criteria for the selection included the greatest possible differences in their genetic diversity, geographical origin and biological traits such as winter or spring type, grain hull, row-type," says Prof. Dr. Nils Stein, head of the Genomics of Genetic Resources research group at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), lead institution of the study.

The scientists found two major differences in the linear order of the genetic information in the chromosomes that are termed structural variants. In the first, a link was established to ‘mutation breeding' in the 1960s and has since spread unnoticed through breeding to present-day varieties. In the second, the observed variation possibly occurred and was selected during environmental adaptation as barley production spread from its origins in the Fertile Crescent.

"This new observation confirms that major structural variants can play a decisive role in both crop evolution and breeding. The only way these could have been discovered is through the complete genome sequencing of diverse individuals," says Prof. Robbie Waugh, of the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee.

For more details, read the article on the James Hutton Institute website and an interview with Prof. Dr. Nils Stein in IPK News.

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