Draft genome sequence of the oilseed species Ricinus communis

Journal name:
Nature Biotechnology
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Published online


Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is an oilseed crop that belongs to the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family, which comprises ~6,300 species that include cassava (Manihot esculenta), rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) and physic nut (Jatropha curcas). It is primarily of economic interest as a source of castor oil, used for the production of high-quality lubricants because of its high proportion of the unusual fatty acid ricinoleic acid. However, castor bean genomics is also relevant to biosecurity as the seeds contain high levels of ricin, a highly toxic, ribosome-inactivating protein. Here we report the draft genome sequence of castor bean (4.6-fold coverage), the first for a member of the Euphorbiaceae. Whereas most of the key genes involved in oil synthesis and turnover are single copy, the number of members of the ricin gene family is larger than previously thought. Comparative genomics analysis suggests the presence of an ancient hexaploidization event that is conserved across the dicotyledonous lineage.

At a glance


  1. Reciprocal best BLAST matches between castor bean genes.
    Figure 1: Reciprocal best BLAST matches between castor bean genes.

    Strings of paralogous genes that correspond to triplicated regions are highlighted in the same color. The 30 pairs of scaffolds that contained the highest numbers of paralogous gene pairs are shown.

  2. Collinearity between three paralogous castor bean genomic regions and their putative orthologs in other dicot genomes.
    Figure 2: Collinearity between three paralogous castor bean genomic regions and their putative orthologs in other dicot genomes.

    (a) An example of a conserved paralogous triplication in the castor bean genome. (be) Putative orthologous gene pairs are shown as colored lines connecting the castor bean scaffolds (noted as Rc:scaffold number) to chromosomes or scaffolds in the other dicot genome. In most cases, one copy of the paralogous castor bean genes corresponds to two genes in poplar (b), one gene in grapevine (c) and four genes in A. thaliana (d). The castor bean–papaya relationship (e) is inconclusive. Numbers around the circles correspond to linkage group numbers (b), chromosome numbers (c and d) or scaffold numbers (e). Grapevine scaffolds that were mapped to chromosomes but their exact location is unknown are noted with an 'r' (random). The size of the castor bean genomic regions is proportional in all circles. Additional castor bean paralogous regions and their corresponding orthologs from other dicots are shown in Supplementary Figure 3.

  3. Schematic representation of the members of the ricin/RCA lectin gene family in castor bean.
    Figure 3: Schematic representation of the members of the ricin/RCA lectin gene family in castor bean.

    Ricin protein domains are represented at the top by blue boxes, and gray boxes represent protein sequences from this gene family aligned to the ricin precursor protein sequence used as reference. The ruler indicates the amino acid coordinates. The ricin and RCA genes are indicated and the amino acid sequence length for each gene model is shown in parenthesis. Pairs of adjacent gene models that could belong to a single pseudogene are shown in gray.

Accession codes

Referenced accessions

NCBI Reference Sequence



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Author information

  1. These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Agnes P Chan &
    • Jonathan Crabtree


  1. J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), Rockville, Maryland, USA.

    • Agnes P Chan,
    • Qi Zhao,
    • Hernan Lorenzi,
    • Admasu Melake-Berhan &
    • Pablo D Rabinowicz
  2. Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

    • Jonathan Crabtree,
    • Joshua Orvis,
    • Kristine M Jones,
    • Julia Redman,
    • Jennifer R Wortman,
    • Claire M Fraser-Liggett,
    • Jacques Ravel &
    • Pablo D Rabinowicz
  3. Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA.

    • Daniela Puiu
  4. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Western Regional Research Center, Crop Improvement and Utilization, Albany, California, USA.

    • Grace Chen
  5. Center for Plant Science Innovation and Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

    • Edgar B Cahoon
  6. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Oyo State, Ibadan, Nigeria.

    • Melaku Gedil
  7. Institut für Mikrobiologie und Genetik, Abteilung Bioinformatik, Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.

    • Mario Stanke
  8. Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Brian J Haas
  9. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

    • Pablo D Rabinowicz


A.P.C., J.C., H.L., B.J.H. and J.R.W. performed genomic analyses. Q.Z., J.O. and M.S. conducted genome annotation. D.P. worked on the genome assembly. A.M.-B., K.M.J. and J.R. made DNA preparations, library constructions, and closure work. G.C., E.B.C. and M.G. performed manual annotations. C.M.F.-L. and J.R. conceived the project. P.D.R. conceived and directed the project.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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