12 January - 20 June 2016

First peanut genome sequenced

9 Apr 14

The International Peanut Genome Initiative has successfully sequenced the genome of the peanut. An important source of sustenance and calories in the developing world, being rich in protein and oil, the peanut (or groundnut) is a cash crop of which about 40 million tonnes are produced each year. More productive and resilient varieties of peanut are a goal which could allow farmers in the developing world to achieve a better crop using fewer pesticides, thus making a better livelihood more efficiently whilst also delivering a valuable food crop. It is hoped that the recent sequencing of the genome will help move this endeavour forward, assisting researchers and plant breeders alike. Researchers also envision potential new varieties with traits such as disease resistance and drought tolerance.

Sequencing the genome was a challenge that took several years due to the complexity of the peanut's genetic structure of the peanut. Peanuts grown in the present day stem from the natural cross of two wild species from north Argentina, Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis. It is believed this cross occurred between 4000 and 6000 years ago. This ancestry means that today's peanut is a polyploid: it carries two separate genomes, designated A and B subgenomes. To map the peanut's structure, researchers sequenced the genomes of the two ancestral parents, which together formed a model for the cultivated peanut, using samples that had been collected in nature and conserved in germplasm banks.

Familiarity with the genome sequences of the two parent species permits researchers to differentiate between subgenomes A and B within the peanut's genomic structure, which is valuable for future gene marker development associating particular genes with physical characteristics and will support breeders in their work.

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