Banana genome sequence unzipped

Posted by mjs76 at Jul 16, 2012 03:16 PM |
Leicester botanist contributes to important breakthrough with far-reaching consequences.

Last week the banana became the latest organism to have its entire genome sequenced, with the help of a Leicester academic. Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison from our Department of Biology was among the researchers contributing to a paper published in Nature.

Bananas are one of the world’s most important crops but present special problems for geneticist because they are sterile: there are no seeds in domesticated banana strains. The wild variety sequenced, Musa acuminate malaccensis, is one of three ancestral subspecies contributing to the genetic make-up of Cavendish, the triploid strain which accounts for virtually all commercially grown bananas

In an interview with the LA Times, Professor Heslop-Harrison outlines some of the oddities in the genome, including three historical duplications of chromosomes and the incorporation of genetic material from banana streak virus.

The French-led study also involved Swiss, Czech, American, Australian and Dutch researchers.

For more on Professor Heslop-Harrison’s banana research, see:

Venn diagram showing distribution of shared gene families (sequence clusters) among M. acuminata (banana), P. dactylifera (date palm), A. thaliana (thale cress), O. sativa (Asian rice), S. bicolor (sorghum) and B. distachyon (purple false brome).