Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava at National Research Center
July 18, 2006Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava at National Research Center
U.S. Department Of Energy Joint Genome Institute To Initiate Genome Sequencing That Will Influence Development Of Breeding And Biotech Tools
St. Louis, MO – The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) recently announced that it selected a proposal organized by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to conduct genome sequencing of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta). Dr. Claude M. Fauquet, principal investigator from the Danforth Center, led a consortium comprised of over a dozen scientists from 11 institutions that submitted the proposal to the DOE JGI.
“Sequencing the cassava genome will help bring this important crop to the forefront of modern science and generate new possibilities for agronomic and nutritional improvement,” said Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel laureate, father of the “Green Revolution,” and Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture, Texas A&M University. “It is a most welcome development, especially for millions of the world’s poor who depend upon cassava for their sustenance.”
“This new cassava project builds on the past participation of the Danforth Center in the maize and soybean genome sequencing programs to now focus on a crop for the developing-world,” Danforth President Dr. Roger N. Beachy explained. “Dr. Claude M. Fauquet is a recognized leader in cassava biology and biotechnology, co-chair of the Global Cassava Partnership, and he will collaborate with Dr. Brad Barbazuk, a bioinformatics specialist at the Danforth Center, and with genomics experts from TIGR and Broad Institute, to apply the project’s data in future work to enhance cassava.”
“The successful lobbying of the DOE JGI by the Danforth Center to sequence the cassava genome validates its importance as a high starch producing crop. The acquisition of the cassava genome sequence will facilitate our understanding of this crop and its relatives within the relatively under explored Euphorbiaceae family,” Dr. Fauquet announced. “These tools will link genes to genetic and physical maps to accelerate breeding programs, identify cassava gene targets for biotechnology development, and provide a platform to explore the vast biodiversity within cassava wild species. Ultimately these activities will improve food security for developing countries by increasing cassava crop yield and its nutritional quality, and will position cassava as a valuable source of renewable bio-energy.”
“Cassava is a root crop that accumulates large quantities of starch with an unrivaled efficiency, and represents an important source of calories within many developing countries. The cassava genome sequence will enable scientists to apply the knowledge gained from the current collections of plant genomic, proteomic and metabolomic data to cassava, thus enabling a better understanding of the molecular basis of cassava development, morphology and physiology,” said Dr. Barbazuk.
The DOE JGI chose to sequence cassava because it is an excellent energy source. Its roots contain 20-40% starch that costs 15-30% less to produce per hectare than starch from corn, making it an attractive and strategic source of renewable energy. Cassava grows in diverse environments, from very dry to extremely humid, from acidic to alkaline soils, from sea level to high altitudes, and in nutrient-poor soil. Moreover, it is grown worldwide as a source of food for approximately 1 billion people, raising the possibility that it could be used globally to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels. The effort to sequence the cassava genome will be aided by alignments to the genomes of poplar and castor bean, plants closely related to cassava, and available cassava BAC libraries and EST and cDNA sequences will facilitate annotation. This project will elucidate the genetic machinery required for efficient energy production in a range of environments, and the information it yields will enable improvement to a wide range of crops important for the U.S. biofuel supply.
In addition to the Danforth Center, the consortium includes the United States Department of Agriculture, Washington University in St Louis, the University of Chicago, The Institute for Genomic Research, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Broad Institute, Ohio State University, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the Smithsonian Institution.
About The DOE Joint Genome Institute
The DOE Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest, along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE mission related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and clean-up. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, Calif. Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Additional information about DOE JGI can be found at: www.jgi.doe.gov.
About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a global vision to improve the human condition. Research at the Danforth Center will enhance the nutritional content of plants to improve human health, increase agricultural production to create a sustainable food supply, and build scientific capacity to generate economic growth in the St. Louis region and throughout Missouri.
Please visit www.danforthcenter.org for additional information.