Scientists sequence the sugarcane genome | Trending Viral hub


Sugarcane, the world’s most harvested crop by tonnage, has shaped global history, trade and geopolitics, and is currently responsible for 80% of sugar production worldwide. While traditional sugarcane breeding methods have effectively generated cultivars adapted to new environments and pathogens, improvements in sugar yield have recently stalled. The cessation of yield increases may be due to limited genetic diversity within breeding populations, long breeding cycles, and genome complexity. Now, an international team of researchers has generated a polyploid reference genome for R570, a typical modern sugarcane cultivar.

Sugar factory.  Image credit: Ton Rulkens / CC BY-SA 2.0 Writing.

sugar factory. Image credit: Ton Rulkens / CC BY-SA 2.0 Writing.

The domestication of sugar cane began approximately 10,000 years ago with the first ‘sweet’ cultivars (sugar factory) derived from strong sugar.

However, modern cultivars are all derived from a few interspecific hybridizations carried out by breeders a century ago between “sweet” varieties. sugar factory and the ‘wild’ spontaneous sugar.

Hybridization of sugarcane has provided important advances in disease resistance and adaptation to otherwise stressful environmental conditions. However, the first generation hybrids also had a much lower sugar yield, due to the large wild genomic contribution.

The complexity of sugarcane hybrid genomes and pedigrees is exemplified in the development of the R570 cultivatewhich was bred by breeders on Reunion Island in 1980.

“The sugarcane genome is very complex because it is large and because it contains more copies of chromosomes than a typical plant, a characteristic called polyploidy,” said Dr. Jeremy Schmutz, a researcher at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and his colleagues.

“Sugarcane has about 10 billion base pairs, the basic components of DNA; For comparison, the human genome is about 3 billion.”

“Many sections of sugarcane DNA are identical both within and between different chromosomes. “That makes it challenging to properly reassemble all the small DNA segments while reconstructing the entire genetic model.”

“We solved the puzzle by combining multiple genetic sequencing techniques, including a newly developed method known as PacBio HiFi sequencing that can accurately determine the sequence of longer sections of DNA.”

“This was the most complicated genome sequence we have completed so far,” added Dr. Schmutz.

“This shows how far we have come. This is the kind of thing that 10 years ago people thought was impossible. “We can now achieve goals that we simply didn’t think were possible in plant genomics.”

“The breakthrough addresses the critical challenge of stagnating sugar yields by harnessing previously inaccessible genetic information in the sugarcane genome,” said CSIRO researcher Dr Karen Aitken.

“This is a major step forward for sugarcane research and will improve our understanding of complex traits such as yield and adaptation to various environmental conditions, as well as disease resistance.”

“We are working to understand how specific genes in plants relate to the quality of the biomass we get, which we can then convert into biofuels and bioproducts,” said Dr. Blake Simmons, a researcher at the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

“With a better understanding of sugarcane genetics, we can better understand and control the plant genotypes needed to produce the sugars and bagasse-derived intermediates we need for sustainable sugarcane conversion technologies at scale.” relevant to the bioeconomy”.

He results appear in the magazine Nature.


AL HEALEY et al. The complex architecture of the sugarcane polyploid genome. Nature, published online March 27, 2024; doi:10.1038/s41586-024-07231-4


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