Apple genome could lead to better apples

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London, Aug 30 (ANI): Scientists have apparently drafted a genome sequence of apple that may help in improving the quality of apple production.

The availability of a genome sequence for apple will allow scientists to more rapidly identify which genes provide desirable characteristics to the fruit and which genes and gene variants provide disease or drought resistance to the plant.

Led by Washington State University horticultural genomicist Amit Dhingra, who sequenced and analyzed a unique version of the genome of the golden delicious apple in which all duplicated chromosomes are genetically identical.

This information was used to validate the sequence of the more complicated "heterozygous" golden delicious apple (in which duplicated chromosomes are not identical).

"Before genome sequencing, the best we could do was correlate traits with genes. Now we can point to a specific gene and say, 'This is the one; this gene is responsible for this trait'. That trait of interest might be, for instance, a disease, which is why sequencing the human genome was such an important milestone," Nature quoted Dhingra as saying.

"Or the trait might be for something desirable, like flavor in a piece of fruit," said Dhingra.

After the sequencing was completed, WSU computational biologist Ananth Kalyanaraman contributed to the analysis by comparing the apple genome with that of pear, peach and grape to identify the differences and commonalities that exist between these fruit crops.

Scientists have long wanted to know - and have for years argued vehemently about - the ancestor of the modern domesticated apple. The question is now settled: Malus sieversii, native to the mountains of southern Kazakhstan, is the apple's wild ancestor.

Now that that question is settled, scientists will begin using the apple genome to help breed apples with desirable new traits, including disease resistance and, potentially, increased health-benefitting qualities.

"Having the apple genome sequence will greatly accelerate our ability to define the differences between apple cultivars at the genetic level," said Kate Evans, an apple breeder based at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

"This will allow us to exploit these differences and target areas of diversity to incorporate into the breeding program, resulting in improved cultivars for the consumers that are also better suited for long-term, sustainable production," he added.

Dan Bernardo of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said: "The Washington apple is an icon of quality around the globe. This is a natural home for the advanced science necessary to map the tree fruit genome and actively study how it functions."

The findings were published in the journal Nature Genetics. (ANI)

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