Canola genome sequence reveals evolutionary 'love triangle'

August 21, 2014 by James Hataway
Seeds and flowers of oilseed rape. Credit: © Jean Weber INRA

An international team of scientists including researchers from the University of Georgia recently published the genome of Brassica napus—commonly known as canola—in the journal Science. Their discovery paves the way for improved versions of the plant, which is used widely in farming and industry.

Canola is grown across much of Canada and its native Europe, but the winter crop is increasingly cultivated in Georgia. Canola oil used for cooking is prized for its naturally low levels of saturated fat and rich supply of , but the plant is also used to produce feed for farm animals and as an efficient source for biodiesel.

"This opens new doors to accelerating the improvement of ," said Andrew Paterson, Regents Professor, director of UGA's Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory and co-corresponding author for the study. "We can use this knowledge to tailor the plant's flowering time, make it more resistant to disease and improve a myriad of other traits that will make it more profitable for production in Georgia and across the country."

Canola has one of the most complex genomes among flowering , forming thousands of years ago during the Neolithic Era when two Brassica rapa and Brassica oleracea—combined in the wild. Plants in the B. rapa family include turnips and cabbages, while B. oleracea encompasses cauliflower, cabbage, collards, broccoli, kale and other common vegetables.

The Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory played prominent roles in the sequencing both B. rapa and B. oleracea in 2011 and 2014, respectively.

"Understanding the genomes of B. rapa and B. oleracea was key to piecing together the canola genome," Paterson said. "It's like a genetic love triangle between the three species, with canola sometimes favoring genes from B. rapa or B. oleracea or sometimes both."

While much the world's canola is used to make cooking oil and protein-rich animal feed, it is also used in the production of lipstick, lip gloss, soap, lotion, printing ink and de-icing agents.

The growing interest in carbon reduction and more environmentally friendly fuel alternatives is also good news for canola growers, as this sequence may ultimately help researchers develop feedstocks that are suited to more sustainable biofuel production.

Global canola production has grown rapidly over the past 40 years, rising from the sixth largest oil crop to the second largest, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Much of the production in America is concentrated along the northern plains, but the recent construction of a canola processing plant near the South Carolina-Georgia border has spurred interest for growers in the Southeast.

Explore further: Researcher to Study Gene Flow 'Hot Spots' in Canola

More information: "Early allopolyploid evolution in the post-Neolithic Brassica napus oilseed genome," by B. Chalhoub et al. Science, 2014. www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.1253435

Related Stories

Researcher to Study Gene Flow 'Hot Spots' in Canola

April 24, 2008

A University of Arkansas researcher and her colleagues have won a joint grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to look at the combined effects of global climate change on weed ...

Unraveling the Chinese cabbage genome

January 20, 2012

Clues into the evolutionary diversification of brassicas have emerged from the draft Chinese cabbage genome sequence. Brassica crops include many agriculturally important vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, pak choi, turnip, ...

Stressed plants say it with flowers

July 30, 2013

With the world's population expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and hotter, drier conditions due to climate change, researchers are racing against time to develop new crop varieties and to ensure there will be enough food ...

Canola flowers faster with heat genes

August 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —A problem that has puzzled canola breeders for years has been solved by researchers from The University of Western Australia - and the results could provide a vital breakthrough in understanding the impact of ...

Recommended for you

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. ...

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 ...

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.

0 comments

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.