BLACKSBURG, Va., December 27, 2010 – An international consortium of researchers, including scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech, has cracked the genetic code of the woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca. The results were published in the Dec. 26 advance online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

"The genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca)," reports the group’s efforts to sequence the strawberry's genome, which researchers hope will spur the development of nutritional improvements in the woodland strawberry and other related crops. As part of their findings, the scientists identified genes that they think might be responsible for some of the berry's characteristics like flavor, aroma, nutritional value, flowering time and response to disease.

Researchers from VBI and Virginia Tech worked on the project and VBI's Core Laboratory Facility (CLF) rapidly generated the complete sequence of the woodland strawberry genome using its Roche GS-FLX™ next-generation genome sequencer. Plant genomes can be tricky to sequence. They tend to be highly complex and contain lots of repetitive DNA sequence that pose significant challenges for whole genome sequencing. With 14 chromosomes, the woodland strawberry contains a total of 206 million base pairs of DNA, necessitating next-generation sequencing power for completion. This kind of technology has created many new opportunities for whole-genome sequencing projects.

The woodland strawberry is a member of the Rosaceae family, which is named after one of its most familiar members, the fragrant garden rose, and includes many fruit species, from apples, plums, peaches, and pears to raspberries, sour cherries, and sweet cherries. In total, this economically significant family of plants comprises more than 3,000 species, many of which provide high-value nutritious fruits and nuts. Some estimates place the annual global value of strawberry production at approximately $7 billion.

VBI researchers involved in the project include Shrinivasrao Mane, computational biologist; Clive Evans, director, Core Laboratory Facility; João Setubal, associate professor; Kelly Williams, visiting collaborator; and Allan Dickerman, assistant professor.

Read the paper online: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.740.html
Shulaev V, Sargent DJ, Crowhurst RN, Mockler TC, Folkerts O, Delcher AL, Jaiswal P, Mockaitis K, Liston A, Mane SP, Burns P, Davis TD, Slovin JP, Bassil N, Hellens RP, Evans C, Harkins T, Kodira C, Desany B, Crasta OR, Jensen RV, Allan AC, Michael TP, Setubal JC, Celton JM, Rees DJG, Williams KP, Holt SH, Ruiz Rojas JJ, Chatterjee M, Liu B, Silva, Meisel HL, Adato A, Filichkin SA, Troggio M, Viola R, Ashman TL, Wang H, Dharmawardhana P, Elser J, Raja R, Priest HD, Bryant DW, Fox SE, Givan SA, Wilhelm LJ, Naithani S, Christoffels A, Salama DY, Carter J, Girona EL, Zdepski A, Wang W, Kerstetter RA, Schwab W, Korban SS, Davik J, Monfort A, Denoyes-Rothan B, Arus P, Mittler R, Flinn B, Aharoni A, Bennetzen JL, Salzberg SL, Dickerman AW, Velasco R, Borodovsky R, Veilleux RE, Folta KM. The genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Nature Genetics, 2010; DOI:10.1038/ng.740

About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (https://www.bi.vt.edu/) at Virginia Tech is a premier bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology research facility that uses transdisciplinary approaches to science combining information technology, biology, and medicine. These approaches are used to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental, and agricultural sciences. With more than 240 highly trained multidisciplinary, international personnel, research at the institute involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, statistics, economics, synthetic biology, and medicine. The large amounts of data generated by this approach are analyzed and interpreted to create new knowledge that is disseminated to the world’s scientific, governmental, and wider communities.

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Published by Susan Bland, December 27, 2010