NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute this week informed the scientific community that it is making the preliminary soybean genome freely available to researchers, in an effort to facilitate and stimulate bioenergy research.
Eddy Rubin, director of the JGI, announced the move while giving a keynote address on January 15th at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego.
The DOE’s interest in the soybean, Glycine max, stems from the plant’s role as the main source of renewable, alternative fuel: biodiesel. Biodiesel not only has the highest energy content amongst the alternative fuels, it also burns cleaner than conventional, petroleum-based fuels, releasing about half the pollutants.
The agency says that having detailed knowledge of soybean genetics could lead to the development of designer soybeans even better suited for producing bioenergy. For instance, in a statement issued on Jan. 17, the DOE said it “may be possible to develop a customized biomass production platform for combining oil seed production for biodiesel with enhanced vegetative growth for ethanol conversion — doubling the energy output of the crop.”
DOE scientists, along with researchers at Stanford University, the University of Missouri-Columbia, Iowa State University, and Purdue University, are using large-scale shotgun DNA sequencing to uncover the soybean genome. To date, roughly 13 million shotgun reads have been generated. As it is collected, sequence information is being deposited into the NCBI Trace Archive. The current, preliminary assembly, GlymaO, is expected to be replaced by a chromosome-scale Glyma1 assembly by the end of 2008.
The soybean genome project began in mid-2006 and is supported by funding from the USDA and the NSF. While unveiling the project in 2006, Rubin said, “The soybean represents an excellent example of how DOE JGI is playing a key role in ‘translational genomics,’ that is, applying the tools of DNA sequencing and molecular biology to contributing to the development of new avenues for clean energy generation and for crop improvement.”
Preliminary soybean genome information is available online here.