Agriculture

Wheat genome surrenders its genetic secrets

Scientists have built the most accurate wheat genome map yet, and discovered thousands of new genes.

Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is a staple crop in much of the world, but its large, complex genome has slowed efforts to produce a comprehensive map of the plant’s DNA. Wheat has three similar versions of its genome and more than 80% of it consists of repetitive sequences, making it difficult to piece sequenced fragments together into a full genome. Matt Clark at the Earlham Institute in Norwich, UK, and his colleagues combined next-generation sequencing technology with computer algorithms to produce the most accurate map of the wheat genome so far. The authors identified more than 100,000 genes, including nearly 23,000 that were absent or fragmented in previous wheat genome assemblies.

This map will help scientists to study differences between wheat varieties, which could aid in the breeding of improved ones, the authors say.