An international team of scientists, funded in the UK by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has sequenced the genome of a Chinese cabbage variety of a plant called Brassica rapa, a close relative of oilseed rape. The research, which is published today (28 August) in the journal Nature Genetics, could help improve the efficiency of oilseed rape breeding, as well as that of a host of other important food and oil crops.
The project was conducted by an international consortium involving researchers working across four continents, with the majority of the data generated in China. The UK's contribution came from scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, both of which receive strategic funding from BBSRC.
Oilseed rape is an important source of vegetable oils for cooking and industrial applications and its production has doubled in the last 15 years. It is an unusual hybrid which contains the entire genomes of two other plants: Brassica rapa and another closely related species called Brassica oleracea. By sequencing Brassica rapa, researchers are able to access half of oilseed rape's genes without having to wrestle with its large and complicated genome.
Professor Ian Bancroft led the research at the John Innes Centre. He explains "Oilseed rape is the second most important oil crop in the world and the most important in Europe. Sequencing its genes will provide breeders with the tools to improve the efficiency of developing new varieties, but this is difficult because it has a really complicated genome. Thankfully, because it is a hybrid, nature has already divided up the oilseed rape genome into two more manageable chunks, one of which we have now sequenced."
Brassica rapa and oilseed rape are both brassicas, a group which also includes broccoli, turnip, sprouts and cabbages. Together, this important group of plants acco
|Contact: Mike Davies|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council