BETHESDA, MD MARCH 20, 2014 The massive genome of the loblolly pinearound seven times bigger than the human genomeis the largest genome sequenced to date and the most complete conifer genome sequence ever published. This achievement marks the first big test of a new analysis method that can speed up genome assembly by compressing the raw sequence data 100-fold.
The draft genome is described in the March 2014 issue of GENETICS and the journal Genome Biology.
Loblolly pine is the most commercially important tree species in the United States and the source of most American paper products. The tree is also being developed as a feedstock for biofuel. The genome sequence will help scientists breed improved varieties and understand the evolution and diversity of plants.
But the enormous size of the pine's genome had been an obstacle to sequencing efforts until recently. "It's a huge genome. But the challenge isn't just collecting all the sequence data. The problem is assembling that sequence into order," said David Neale, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, who led the loblolly pine genome project and is an author on the GENETICS and Genome Biology articles.
Modern genome sequencing methods make it relatively easy to read the individual "letters" in DNA, but only in short fragments. In the case of the loblolly, 16 billion separate fragments had to be fit back togethera computational puzzle called genome assembly.
"We were able to assemble the human genome, but it was close to the limit of our ability; seven times bigger was just too much," said Steven Salzberg, professor of medicine and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, one of the directors of the loblolly genome assembly team, who was also an author on the papers.
The scale of the problem can be compared to shredding thousands of copies of the same book and then trying to read the story. "Yo
|Contact: Cristy Gelling|
Genetics Society of America