Prof. Doležel´s research group significantly contributed to four new publications in Science

Genetic blueprint of bread wheat genome unveiled

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published on July 18, 2014 in the international journal Science a draft sequence of the bread wheat genome. The chromosome-based draft provides new insight into the structure, organization, and evolution of the large, complex genome of the world’s most widely grown cereal crop.

Prof. Doležel´s research group has established a chromosome strategy which has enabled them to map the genetic blueprint of bread wheat genome, which is aproximately six times larger than the human one. The genetic blueprint is an invaluable resource to plant science researchers and breeders. For the first time, they have at their disposal a set of tools enabling them to rapidly locate specific genes on individual wheat chromosomes  throughout the genome. The group of researchers from Olomouc have developed a unique set of methods which enable isolation of individual chromosomes and preparation of materials used by other members of IWGSC for sequencing. Thanks to this achievement, Czech researchers are cooperating in the reading of all bread wheat chromosomes.

In the same issue of Science, another article presents the first reference sequence for the largest chromosome, 3B. This establishes a proof of concept and a template for sequencing the remaining chromosomes. As of today, researchers in the IWGSC estimate that the full genome sequence will be available within three years. “With the draft gene sequence for each of the bread wheat chromosome and the first reference sequence of chromosome 3B, we have reached a great milestone in our roadmap,” said Catherine Feuillet, IWGSC co-chair. “We know now the way forward to obtain a reference sequence for the 20  remaining chromosomes and we hopefully will be able to find the resources to achieve this  in the next three years.”

With a chromosome-based full sequence in hand, plant breeders will have high quality  tools at their disposal to accelerate breeding programs and to identify how genes control complex traits such as yield, grain quality, disease, pest resistance, or abiotic stress tolerance. They will be able to produce a new generation of wheat varieties with higher yields and improved sustainability to meet the demands of a growing world population in a changing environment. The draft sequence is already providing new insights into the history and evolution of the wheat genome and genes involved in grain development, as exemplified in two additional publications appearing in the same issue of Science. Wheat is a major dietary component for many populations across the world. Grown on more land than any other crop, more than 215 million hectares of wheat are harvested annually to generate a world production of almost 700 million tons, making it the third most  produced cereal after maize and rice. It is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having a higher protein content than either maize or rice. The wheat plant is highly versatile due to its ability to grow in a wide range of environments. Wheat grain is easily stored and can be converted readily into flour for making numerous varieties of high  quality edible food.