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JGI, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Get $4M to Sequence Nasty Plant Microbes

NEW YORK, Oct. 17 - A trio of US government agencies will hand over $4 million to a team of researchers at the DOE's Joint Genome Institute and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to sequence the genome of two types of nasty plant microbes.


By sequencing the genomes of Phytophthora ramorum and P. sojae, scientists hope to better understand the fungus-like microbe that has been attacking more than a dozen species of trees in the western United States and wreaking havoc on soybean crops in the midwest and the south.


To support the project, the DOE's Office of Science will give $1.5 million to JGI to draft the sequence of the P. ramorum genome. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation will jointly award $2.3 million to JGI and VBI to do a draft sequence of P. sojae.


Jeffrey Boore, who will lead the research for JGI, said the knowledge gained from sequencing the P. ramorum genome and comparing it with the DNA of P. sojae could lead to better plant-related diagnostics, like "kits that can be taken to the field that could quickly identify the microbe's presence in tree samples."


P. sojae was chosen for the project because of its compact genome and because researchers have been studying its genetics for many years, according to the NSF. Brett Tyler, Bruno Sobral, and colleagues at the VBI will provide a genetic map of the genome, which will be used to assemble the raw DNA sequence data to be produced at JGI.


The draft sequence data from both genomes, which will be made available to researchers on the Internet, will be the first publicly available Stramenopile pathogen genomes.


"We can also identify rapidly changing parts of the genome that can be used to track the paths of infection through a forest," Boore said in a statement. "We may also be able to identify specific genes that are necessary for infection and to develop treatments that attack the products of these genes and thus eliminate Phytophthora's ability to attack trees."

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