Other Kansas State University researchers in the department of plant pathology involved include Bikram Gill, university distinguished professor and director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center, and Bernd Friebe, research professor, who developed genetic material that was essential for obtaining the chromosome-based sequence of the wheat genome.
A second paper in Science details the first reference sequence of chromosome 3B, the largest chromosome in common wheat.
"The wheat genome only has 21 chromosomes, but each chromosome is very big and therefore quite complicated," Akhunov said. "The largest chromosome, 3B, has nearly 800 million letters in its genetic code. This is nearly three times more information than is in the entire rice genome. So trying to sequence this chromosome — and this genome — end-to-end is an extremely complicated task."
In order to analyze the vast amount of genetic information, researchers used a technique called shotgun sequencing. This divided the wheat genome into chromosomes and then split each chromosome into smaller segments. Chromosomal segments were analyzed by short gene sequences and overlapping sequences were stitched together with computer software.
The chromosome-based daft sequence the critical step before the full wheat genome is sequenced, Akhunov said. The sequencing approach developed for the 3B chromosome can now be applied for sequencing the remaining chromosomes in wheat. The consortium estimates the full genome sequence will be available in three years.
The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"Wheat is a staple source of food for the majority of the world. As the global population continues to rapidly increase, we will need all the tools available to continue producing enough food for all people in light of a changing climate, diminishing land and water resources and changing diets and health expectations," said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a former Kansas State University faculty member. "This work will give a boost to researchers looking to identify ways to increase wheat yields."
Source: K-State Research and Extension