Biologists have deciphered the potato genome

(ORDO NEWS) — The potato genome is much larger and more intricate than the human one, and in order to determine the complete DNA sequence of this plant, scientists had to go to the trick.

The complete human DNA sequence was determined over 20 years ago. Similar work has been done for many other important animals and plants, including tea and coffee , but only now have scientists gotten to the potato.

Its genome is much larger and more intricate than that of humans, and it had to be deciphered using plant pollen instead of their own tissues. But now specialists have a wide scope for breeding new, more resistant and productive varieties.

Indeed, most of the same varieties of potatoes are sold on store shelves today as they were a hundred years ago, before modern genetics existed. In the middle of the last century, when the Third agrarian (“green”) revolution unfolded on the planet and many new varieties of agricultural plants were obtained, little was affected by the potato.

Breeding more effective varieties of it proved extremely difficult, and the yield of potatoes increased by far not as significantly as that of wheat or rice.

The problem is that the potato genome is tetraploid and contains as many as four slightly different sets of chromosomes (rather than two, as in humans).

Each gene exists in four copies, and it is very difficult to form the desired trait from them, which makes it difficult to breed new varieties and even such a common task today as complete DNA sequencing.

Indeed, for this, its molecules are divided into separate fragments, which are deciphered separately, and then sewn into a single sequence, focusing on overlapping areas.

At the same time, the tetraploid genome creates such a hodgepodge that it is not always possible to figure out which section which fragment belongs to. Therefore, Korbinian Schneeberger and his colleagues from the Max Planck Society’s Institute for Plant Industry went to the trick.

Instead of isolating DNA from the crushed biomass of the plant itself, they used its pollen. It contains not ordinary somatic cells, but sex cells, carrying only half the set of chromosomes. For potatoes – double.

As a result, work on decoding the complete potato genome has taken place. A single set of its chromosomes includes about 3.1 billion base pairs, among which scientists have found 38214 genes.

Curiously, only about half of these genes were present in all four sets of plant chromosomes, and on average they are contained in 3.2 copies. It is not surprising that the creation of new varieties of potatoes is so difficult. However, now that scientists have a complete “map” of its complex genome in hand, things should speed up.

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