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Piecing together the genetic puzzle of the olive tree


Tue, 26/11/2013 - 17:50

Piecing together the genetic puzzle of the olive tree


  • A Spanish research team led by the CSIC and with important contribution of the CNAG and the CRG has completed the first part of the project entitled “First comprehensive DNA sequencing of the olive tree”, funded by the Banco Santander.
  • The results of this study will shed light on some this plant’s genetic clues, which in the future could help in the improvement of olive production.
  • The sequencing work is being performed at the CNAG and the CRG

The project is led by the CSIC researcher Pablo Vargas, of the Real Jardín Botánico where the DNA extraction of the specimen studied has been carried out. The CNAG has performed the sequencing of the genome and the analysis of the results will be performed by the CRG.
The data collected so far, corresponding to the raw sequence, have been included this week in the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA). The data suggest that this variety of olive tree has a complicated genome and that its size is approximately half of the human genome. “Although we still have much work ahead, this is the first step to unveil the information from the olive tree genes that will be really useful in the future. We will be able to understand the genetic advantages of this specimen and help to improve olive production”, says Ivo Gut, director at the CNAG.
The next step, is to assemble the olive genome sequence from the raw data. “Having sequenced the fragments now begins the work to assemble or reconstruct the genome, the equivalent of assembling the puzzle with all sequenced fragments” explains Toni Gabaldon, group leader at the Center for Genomic Regulation and coordinator of the genomic analysis of this project. “Once rebuilt, we will start establishing which genes can be specifically related to the main characteristics of these trees, as longevity or ability to adapt to agriculture,” adds Gabaldon.