Bioplatforms Australia News

The Bread Wheat Genome – Science publication

An international consortium, including an Australian team of researchers, have just published the high-quality genome sequence of the bread wheat in the journal Science. Analysis of the genome will assist basic and applied wheat science and support the development of wheat varieties.

Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is a crop of major global importance that has been cultivated for millennia and now accounts for up to 20% of the calories consumed by people, with about 35% of the world’s population dependent on this crop for survival. The staple crop is a major component of the global food economy. Wheat exports worldwide totaled $53 billion in 2017 and the crop contributes approximately $6 billion in export revenue to the Australian economy each year.

The relative ease of production, strong worldwide demand and challenges of current times are driving the international research efforts and crop development, for which the establishment of a genetic blueprint is vital.
Wheat has a highly complex genome that is composed of six copies of each of its seven chromosomes. At a total of 17-gigabase-pair (Gb), it is more than five times larger than the human genome and contains close to 90% of repeats which created a huge challenge to assemble in a coherent and correct manner. In comparison, the recently released koala genome contained only 47.5% repeats similar to the human genome (approx. 50%).

In 2005, a worldwide collaboration established the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) with the primary aim to establish a “high quality genome sequence of bread wheat to serve as a foundation for the accelerated development of improved varieties and empower all aspects of basic and applied wheat science”. The consortium has grown to representatives from 79 institutions in 68 countries around the world. The sequencing of the 21 chromosomes was divided between the several countries, Australia taking responsibility for chromosome 7A.

The Australian research team is led by Agriculture Victoria honorary research fellow, Professor Rudi Appels, who is one of the six co-chairs of the IWGSC, and comprises researchers Agriculture Victoria, the AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience and the University of Adelaide.
The sequencing effort from the Australian researchers was the first framework initiative supported by funding from Bioplatforms Australia through the Commonwealth Government National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), and also received funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Details on the Bioplatforms Australia wheat framework data initiatives can be found on the wheat dataset page.
Further information can be found with Agriculture Australia website and the IWGSC.
The wheat genome sequence is publicly available on Ensembl Plants

Shifting the limits in wheat research and breeding through a fully annotated and anchored reference genome sequence
The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium et al.
Science, 17 August 2018, volume 361, issue 6403, eaar7191
View publication

Andrew Gilbert |

French Island Koala, picture by Greta Frankham, copyright Australian Museum

The complete bread wheat genome has been published in Science and can be viewed here

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