Barley Genome: New prospect for an old crop

Barley Genome: New prospect for an old crop

The International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium (IBSC), consisting of scientists from 22 organizations around the globe, has sequenced the barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) genome of 5.3 billion bases which is almost twice the size of that of humans (3.2 billion bases). However, determination of the sequences of its DNA has presented a major challenge. This is mainly because Barley’s genome contains a large proportion of closely related sequences which are difficult to piece together into a true linear order. The results were published in Nature (doi:10.1038/nature11543) under the title ‘A physical, genetic and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome’. In an effort to identify as many genetic variants as possible, they generated RNA sequences derived from four more barley cultivars and from one wild barley species. The resulting genomic framework provides a detailed insight into the physical distribution of genes and repetitive DNA and how these features relate to genetic characteristics such as recombination frequency, gene expression, and patterns of genetic variation. In the current study, for instance, researchers uncovered 26,159 protein-coding sequences classified as high-confidence genes. Another 53,000 low confidence genes also were unearthed. Those predicted genes tended to be smaller and less complex, with nearly three-quarters of the low confidence genes consisting of a single exon. Such features provide a clue that many of the genes in the low confidence set are actually pseudogenes or fragments of gene sequence that have been relocated to new parts of the genome by mobile elements. Consistent with patterns found through previous genetic studies of barley, the team’s analyses suggest that barley genes frequently fall closer to the proximal and distal parts of chromosomes, which tend to have higher recombination rates than regions in and around chromosome centromeres. Apparently, their achievements highlight the unique differences in detail between different barley cultivars; providing barely breeders abundant global wide genetic resources in gene banks  leading to the development of desirable cultivars to suit different ecological zones. The advance will give researchers the tools to produce higher yields, improve pest and disease resistance, and enhance nutritional value of barley. [Summarized by a graduate student. [Samsad Razzaque]

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