An international group of researchers led by scientists from Brazil's Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) has assembled the most complete genome sequence of commercial sugarcane, mapping 373,869 genes, equivalent to 99.1% of the total genome. The group sequenced the variety SP80-3280, one of the top 20 sugarcane varieties grown in São Paulo. It was chosen for sequencing because more data are available about this variety in scientific literature than any other variety.
According to the researchers, today's commercial sugarcane hybrids have been bred through crossing different varieties of two sugarcane species (Saccharum officinarum and S. spontaneum) over thousands of years and have a highly complex genome comprising 10 billion base pairs in 100-130 chromosomes. The sequence published has made it possible for the first time to identify gene promoters, regions in DNA that control gene expression.
Researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) are now developing tools for the genetic improvement of sugarcane and testing several candidate genes in genetically modified (GM) plants. They are also conducting comparative genomics studies on large gene families with the aim of understanding their contributions to the sugarcane varieties used in Brazilian genetic improvement programs. The researchers hope to find genes that can help increase yields, enhance drought resistance, and contribute to the development of novel compounds from sugarcane.
For more details, read the news release from FAPESP.