More genome copies in switchgrass leads to increased climate flexibility

by: Sarah Sharman, PhD, Science writer

Most mammals, including humans, have two copies of each gene, one from mom and one from dad. Mammals that inherit more than two copies (a phenomenon known as polyploidy) rarely survive to birth. One known exception is the tetraploid red viscacha-rat which lives comfortably with double the usual number of chromosomes as its ancestors.

Plants, on the other hand, have embraced surviving (and thriving) with many copies of their genome. Many plants have a history of polyploidy, in fact, a quarter of all plants on earth have more than two copies of each chromosome. While the exact benefit of polyploidy has not been fully realized, in plants it is thought to be a major driver of climate and environmental adaptation. Higher numbers of copies of each chromosome could drive shifts in habitat preference, adaptability, and fitness.

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How high-quality plant genomes can help feed the world

Countless studies by researchers around the world indicate that Earth’s climate is changing faster now than at any point in the history of modern civilization. Hotter days are more common while  colder days have become less common. Warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns have given rise to increased occurrences of drought and forest fires throughout the western United States, destroying homes, communities, and entire ecosystems.

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Australian tree genome sequenced in part at HudsonAlpha

Second species of eucalypt sequenced in a decade-long project that spanned three continents

Scientists at the HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center contributed their expertise to the development of yet another high-quality plant genome. The international team, which included scientists in Australia, Brazil and the United States, published the new reference genome for a woody plant called Corymbia citriodora in Communications Biology earlier this month.

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Switchgrass: A ten-year reference genome in the making

February 10, 2021 (Huntsville, Ala.) – Scientists at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology have a long and fruitful history of sequencing complex genomes, dating back to the Human Genome Project. Although the completion of the first human genome was a monumental accomplishment that sparked the genomics revolution, the human genome is relatively uncomplicated compared to other species. Since the Human Genome Project, the scientists at HudsonAlpha have become experts at sequencing some of the most complicated genomes—plants.

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Coral sequencing at HudsonAlpha published in Current Biology

HudsonAlpha’s faculty investigators, Jeremy Schmutz and Jane Grimwood, PhD, are part of an international team of researchers who have concluded that one group coral could adapt to future climate changes because of their high genetic diversity. Schmutz and Grimwood, who are co-directors of the HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center, performed the coral sequencing, helped with directions for the genome work and completed test assemblies of the data sets.

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Genome sequencing could save American chestnuts

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is generating and annotating a reference genome for the American chestnut tree in a project with The American Chestnut Foundation that aims to restore the once dominant tree to forests in the Eastern United States. We are all familiar with the opening lines of The Christmas Song: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire …” But this collaborative project could mean that those chestnuts might once again come from an American chestnut tree.

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HudsonAlpha collaborators expand sorghum research program

A multi-institutional research effort aims to optimize breeding strategies for grain sorghum for sub-Saharan Africa

Huntsville, Ala. — HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a nonprofit genomics and genetics research institute, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, one of the world’s largest independent plant science institutes, today announced a three-year project to expand and accelerate the development and deployment of advanced sorghum phenotyping and breeding technologies in support of improved varieties for smallholder farmers. The project is funded by a $6.1 million grant to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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