Asiatic pear genome sequenced

June 12, 2012
This is an Asiatic pear tree. Credit: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

The first sequencing of the Asiatic pear genome has recently been completed by an international consortium of seven worldwide universities and institutions including the University of Illinois.

"Our role on the team was to work on the strategy for sequencing, analyzing the data, understanding some of the , and writing the manuscript," said U of I plant molecular geneticist Schuyler Korban, whose lab had previously been involved in a consortium that sequenced the woodland genome.

"We ended up with an assembly that's 97.1 percent correct rather than 50 or 60 percent," Korban said. "Every is different, but the have improved, we've learned from previous strategies, and the cost is definitely a lot less than when genome sequencing first began."

The project was developed when a professor named Jun Wu from Nanjing Agricultural University in China spent a year in Korban's lab to study the using the U of I apple markers.

"U of I had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nanjing and when Wu said that her university was interested in sequencing the pear genome that became a great collaboration."

China is the number one producer of pear. "The pear actually originated in China 65 million years ago," he said. "It's the center of the origin of pear, just like most fruits are. China is rich in germplasm."

Korban explained that there are two major varieties of pear, European and Asiatic. The sequencing was actually done on the Asiatic pear but Korban said that photos of the European pear have been used to illustrate the Asiatic variety and caused some confusion.

"The Asiatic pear looks nothing like the European pear, like the Bartlett," Korban said.

The European pear is the more familiar pear-shaped fruit, but the Asiatic pear is a round fruit that looks like a yellow apple and is often advertised in U.S. as an apple pear.

"The Asiatic pear is the most important commercial variety in China," Korban said. "It's sweeter, has a high level of antioxidants and is healthy like the apple, but it is higher in lignified cells so when you bite into it, you can feel the grittiness, making it higher in fiber. It's also more resistant to diseases including fire blight, which the European pear is susceptible to."

Ray Ming from the U of I Department of Plant Biology contributed to the project as well as two of Korban's post-doctoral students, Danman Zheng and Awais Khan.

Awais Khan, a postdoctoral research scientist working in the Korban Lab, actively participated in coordination of groups and designing strategies for sequencing, assembly and anchoring of the genome.

"The knowledge of the pear genome will greatly facilitate comparative genomics study for identification of genes of consumer and grower interest in the Rosaceae family," Khan said. "Ultimately, this will lead to rapid improvement of the these fruits for disease resistance and fruit quality traits."

Explore further: Kids pear juices are recalled in Canada

Related Stories

Kids pear juices are recalled in Canada

March 12, 2008

Canadian officials are warning against consuming President's Choice- and Beech Nut-brand pear juices because of possible arsenic contamination.

Recommended for you

4 million years at Africa's salad bar

August 3, 2015

As grasses grew more common in Africa, most major mammal groups tried grazing on them at times during the past 4 million years, but some of the animals went extinct or switched back to browsing on trees and shrubs, according ...

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

A look at living cells down to individual molecules

August 3, 2015

EPFL scientists have been able to produce footage of the evolution of living cells at a nanoscale resolution by combining atomic force microscopy and an a super resolution optical imaging system that follows molecules that ...

New lizard named after Sir David Attenborough

August 3, 2015

A research team led by Dr Martin Whiting from the Department of Biological Sciences recently discovered a beautifully coloured new species of flat lizard, which they have named Platysaurus attenboroughi, after Sir David Attenborough.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kaasinees
3 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2012
Its impossible to evade GMOs now.
chardo137
1 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2012
This article does not say anything about genetically modified organisms. The human genome has been sequenced. Does this make us all GMO's?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.