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Palacký University
08-04-2014, 08:34, Age: 6 y.

Genetic Blueprint of Bread Wheat Unveiled: Major Contribution by Olomouc Scientists

By: Martina Šaradínová

Jaroslav Doležel in the greenhouse of the Centre of the Haná Region in Olomouc.

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), wherein a team of scientists lead by Jaroslav Doležel from the Centre of the Haná Region for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research plays a key role, published a draft sequence of the bread wheat genome in the prestigious international journal Science. Plant biologists and breeders now have at their disposal an important tool enabling them to cultivate the cereal crop that is a crucial source of food for humankind.

Scientists associated in the consortium have described the structure of the genome and provided new insights into the evolution of the world’s most widely grown cereal crop. This has been made possible by using a chromosome strategy developed by Olomouc researchers.

Higher yields and more resistant wheat

“The information will help breeders to obtain more resistant wheat varieties more quickly, by means of molecular biology and genomics. Since the world population is growing, the global production of food has to be increased too. Wheat will play a key role in this. It is necessary to increase its yields as well as resistance to diseases and pests,” said Doležel.

He emphasised that wheat, along with maize and rice, is one of the three major crops in the world; of the three, it is being grown on the largest area. It is also a staple food for nearly 40 percent of the human population, and a source of approximately 20 percent of the plant proteins for humans.

Thanks to the international scientific cooperation, the breeders can now rapidly and precisely locate specific genes responsible for important properties. “The development of genome specific primers, which used to take several weeks of work, can now be done in hours. Mapping of any sequence to the specific chromosome arm can now be done in silico in minutes. In addition to the acceleration of day-to-day work in wheat genetics, this resource has made possible analyses and discoveries at the genome level that were not possible before,“ said Jorge Dubcovsky from the University of California, Davis.

The first chromosome cracked

The journal Science also published the reference sequence for the first of the 21 wheat chromosomes. Professor Doležel’s team significantly participated in this project, led by the scientists of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. The Czech experts worked out a unique set of methods allowing the isolation of individual chromosomes, on the basis of which they prepare materials used for sequencing by the consortium members. This is how the Czech scientists, alone in this on the world stage, are contributing to the sequencing of all bread wheat chromosomes.

“Both publications and the international acclaim are a reward for this team for many years of intense and systematic work, as well as motivation for further work. Within the consortium project, we’re responsible for the sequencing of three chromosomes, thus being in the same league with top-ranking laboratories in the United States, France, Germany, and Japan. We are using the new findings for isolation of agronomically important genes, among others,” added Doležel.

The IWGSC has over a thousand members in 57 countries. This international organisation was established in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists, and breeders.

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Last update: 19. 09. 2012, Vladimír Kubák