An international research team, including researchers from the University of
Georgia (UGA) has published the first sunflower
sequence. The research team in North America and Europe sequenced the genome
of the domesticated sunflower Helianthus annuus L., and also conducted
comparative and genome-wide analyses, which provide insights about the
evolutionary history of Asterids, a subgroup of flowering plants that
includes potatoes, tomatoes, and coffee.
Sunflower is an important global oil crop, and has potential for
change adaptation as it maintains yields despite environmental stresses,
including drought. The team identified new candidate genes and reconstructed
genetic networks that control flowering time and oil metabolism, two major
sunflower breeding traits, and found that the flowering time networks have
been shaped by the past duplication of the entire genome. Their findings
suggest that ancient copies of genes can retain their functionality and
still influence traits of interest after tens of millions of years.
Paper co-author John M. Burke, professor of plant biology and member of the
UGA Plant Center said that the sunflower genome is over 40 percent larger
than the maize genome, and roughly 20 percent larger than the human genome,
and its highly repetitive nature made it a unique challenge for assembly.
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