1 min readAssembly of Oil Palm Genome Announced

Branford, CT & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – At a recent press conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a team of researchers announced the complete sequencing, assembly and annotation of the oil palm genome, a key milestone in an effort to enhance productivity and sustainability of this commercially important plant. The initiative also analyzed gene expression at various stages of development in order to elucidate oil biosynthesis mechanisms through the sequencing of 12 transcriptomes.
Officiated by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, the announcement detailed the partnership between Sime Darby, Synamatix and 454 Life Sciences, a Roche company, to fully characterize the genome of this tropical plant. Palm oil is used widely in food, health supplements, cosmetics, and increasingly as a biofuel. By uncovering the genome of the oil palm, researchers will eventually be able to develop more sustainable trees with increased oil yield.
While the completion of the 1.7 billion base pair oil palm genome is an important agricultural milestone, it also signals a fundamental shift in the technological approach used for sequencing of large complex plant genomes. The genome was sequenced using only the Genome Sequencer FLX Titanium system and then assembled and analyzed by Synamatix, a bioinformatics company based in Malaysia. Importantly, this is the first de novo genome assembly of a large and highly complex plant to be completed without the addition of conventional Sanger sequencing data. This fast and economical approach opens new doors to understanding the genetic makeup of a wide range of economically important plants, where sequencing has traditionally been prohibitively expensive.
“The resulting assembly has exceeded our expectations. By using the combination of long 454 reads and our own assembly pipeline, we were able to achieve a very high quality assembly in spite of the genome’s very high repeat content. The approach we have taken for sequencing and assembly of the oil palm offers a significantly faster and more economical way to characterize large, highly complex genomes,” said Robert Hercus, Synamatix Managing Director.
“We are proud to be part of this pivotal plant genomics project,” said Michael Egholm, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Research and Development at 454 Life Sciences. “With the ability to generate millions of long, clonal reads, the 454 Sequencing system is an ideal tool for tackling highly complex plant genomes. We look forward to continue working with our bioinformatics partner, Synamatix, to sequence and assemble other commercially important plants.”

Gene Technology

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