Diversity of cabbage species explained

Nov 07, 2011 Rob Ramaker

The cabbage family is well-represented in the vegetable section of the supermarket. The cauliflower, red cabbage and broccoli found there were all bred from the cabbage species Brassica oleraciea. Its sister species Brassica rapa produced vegetables such as the Chinese cabbage and the turnip. But it is not clear quite where this large natural variety came from. Plant scientists guess that there is an extremely large genetic variation in cabbage plants. The genome of the Chinese cabbage, published in this month's Nature Genetics, supports this explanation.

'The of the Chinese cabbage, a B. rapa crop, does indeed provide evidence of this', explains Guusje Bonnema, assistant professor of Plant Breeding at Wageningen University and member of the international research team. ´We see a strikingly large number of genes that regulate flowering time. This varies according to crop type from twenty days to as much as two years.´ There is a clear link, then, between gene abundance and diversity. The hypothesis is further supported by the large number of genes involved in the hormonal system, which governs the formation of the plant.

The researchers also have an explanation for the source of these extra genes. It has been known for a while that the brassicas tripled their genetic material between five and nine million years ago. This is quite a common occurrence in plants, and afterwards, 'superfluous' genes mutate and disappear en masse. But a few groups of genes do seem to be kept and this made the eventual diversity of cabbage possible. The newly-mapped DNA sequence provides more than a fundamental insight into the characteristics of cabbage. 'The research is especially of use to the breeding sector', says Bonnema. 'Breeders always need markers'. Such markers in the genome reveal the presence of a particular gene, such as one for virus resistance, for example. Breeders can then select for this gene, making it easier to cross-breed genes into other species.

Explore further: Automating the selection process for a genome assembler

Provided by Wageningen University

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes identified to protect brassicas from damaging disease

Nov 01, 2007

Scientists have identified a new way to breed brassicas, which include broccoli, cabbage and oilseed rape, resistant to a damaging virus. Their discovery has characterised a form of resistance that appears to be durable, ...

New disease-resistant food crops in prospect

Nov 18, 2010

Researchers have uncovered the genetic basis of remarkable broad-spectrum resistance to a viral infection that, in some parts of the world, is the most important pathogen affecting leafy and arable brassica crops including ...

Breeding better broccoli

Nov 04, 2009

Carotenoids—fat-soluble plant compounds found in some vegetables—are essential to the human diet and reportedly offer important health benefits to consumers. Plant carotenoids are the most important source of vitamin ...

Recommended for you

Team advances genome editing technique

9 hours ago

Customized genome editing – the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes – has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture.

Studies steadily advance cellulosic ethanol prospects

Oct 20, 2014

At the Agricultural Research Service's Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, field work and bench investigations keep ARS scientists on the scientific front lines of converting biomass into cellulosic ...

User comments : 0