PULLMAN, Wash. – Anyone who has bought a hard pear at the supermarket can probably attest to the fruit’s unpredictable ripening process. But that unpredictability, one of the many traits stored in the plant’s genetic code, could be a thing of the past now that Washington State University scientists have sequenced four new Rosaceae crop family genomes, including the Comice pear.
Amit Dhingra, a horticultural genomicist at WSU, led the researchers who sequenced the double haploid Comice pear, Golden Delicious double haploid apple, almond and Stella sweet cherry genomes. (Double haploid refers to an organism with two sets of each chromosome created from a single grain of pollen).
Genomes house the DNA and determine, among other traits and functions, a plant’s appearance, health, productivity, color and taste of the fruit.
Ultimately, the results will provide researchers with a better understanding of the Rosaceae family and will be used to address challenges that fruit-tree growers and producers face from pests, drought, a plant’s stress response and lack of nutrients.
The new information sheds light on biochemical regulation pathways for disease resistance, ways of protecting the food supply from environmental conditions and, of course, understanding the fruit ripening process. The genomes will help scientists understand how the fruits’ functions have evolved – for example, why the peach and raspberry appear so different from each other when both are in the Rosaceae family.
“These crops have economic value, so understanding the genetics of these fruits dovetails perfectly with everything else WSU is doing to ensure the competitiveness of the industry,” Dhingra said. “Sustainability also means being able to grow food with minimal environmental impacts.”
The state of Washington accounts for approximately 60 percent of apple production in the U.S. Meanwhile, Rosaceae fruit production – which also includes crops like peaches, raspberries and roses – is a multibillion dollar state industry.
Draft assemblies of the four genomes are being made available to the research community prior to publication via the WSU Genome Portal http://bit.ly/13xXH7c. The data may be downloaded and used by those who agree to the terms of release.
Learn more about the genomics lab and research at WSU at http://genomics.wsu.edu/.