< Wichtiger Schritt bei der Genexpression entschlüsselt
20.05.2016

The Neanderthal amongst plants

International research consortium publishes data on the genomic diversity from over 1000 plants


Tübingen, 14th of June 2016. The unimposing, but extremely adaptable plant Arabidopsis thaliana has proportionally more genetic variants than humans. This is one of the results revealed by the international “1001 Genome Project” that started in 2008. The study also revealed the continued presence of a small group of individuals that have survived in relative isolation since the last ice age, making the plant equivalent of Neanderthals. The study not only serves as a foundation for linking genes and adaptation to the environment, but also provides a roadmap for similar efforts in crops.

The plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) is one of the favorite research subjects for plant science. Much of today’s knowledge about the inner workings of plants comes from studies in this unimposing, but globally distributed weed. The international “1001 Genome Project”, led by Detlef Weigel from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany and Magnus Nordborg from the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna, Austria, has recently concluded a major milestone: complete genome sequences from 1,135 individuals collected all over the world. The study was published on June 9 in the science journal Cell.

Like humans or animals, plants from different places differ genetically. Different from humans or animals, plants cannot pack up and migrate to other regions if their environment changes. Thus, plants are expected to have much stronger environmental footprints in their genomes than humans and animals. By sequencing the genomes of a large number of specimens from diverse places, the scientists could document a much denser set of genetic differences than one finds in a similar size sets of human genomes.

The new results have already revealed previously unappreciated aspects of the evolutionary history of this important model plant. Based on the genetic differences, the 1001 Genomes research team identified six different groups of modern Arabidopsis plants. The vast majority belongs to a single group that has evolved after the last ice age and then spread fast around the world – just as the modern human. Indeed, the dissemination of this group is highly associated with the dispersion of agriculture. “The other five groups are like Neanderthals amongst the plants”, says Weigel, “they evolved before the last ice age and have survived as isolated, genetically differentiated populations on the Canary and Cape Verde islands, on Sicily, in North Africa and throughout the Iberian Peninsula.” Different from the large modern group, which is often found near agricultural fields or in urban settings, these relicts are restricted to more natural, undisturbed habitats, explaining their much more limited modern distribution.  By comparing genomes of relicts and non-relicts, and matching them with climate data, scientists can now discover genes that could help breeders to better equip crops for the environmental stresses that will come with future climate change.

More information on the „1001 Genomes Project“ and access to all data on Opens external link in new windowwww.1001genomes.org.

 

Original Publication:
The 1001 Genomes Consortium, 1,135 Genomes Reveal the Global Pattern of Polymorphism in Arabidopsis  thaliana, Cell (2016), dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2016.05.063

 

Contact:
Prof. Detlef Weigel
Tel. 07071 601-1411
Mail: weigel@tue.mpg.de

Nadja Winter (PR Officer)
Phone: +49 7071 601- 444
Mail: presse-eb@tuebingen.mpg.de

 

 


In the “1001 Genome Project”, genome sequences of over 1000  Arabidopsis-specimen have been analyzed. Jörg Abendroth/ Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

In the “1001 Genome Project”, genome sequences of over 1000 Arabidopsis-specimen have been analyzed. Jörg Abendroth/ Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) is one of the favorite research objects in plant biology. Jörg Abendroth/ Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) is one of the favorite research objects in plant biology. Jörg Abendroth/ Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology