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Oak Ridge Lab to Lead First Tree Genome-Sequence Project

NEW YORK, Feb. 8 - Who better to lead the first-ever tree genome-sequencing project than the Oak Ridge National Lab?


Researchers there, teamed with the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute and the University of Washington, Genome Canada, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences plan to produce a 6x genomic sequence within 18 months.


The tree chosen is the black cottonwood, Populus trichocarpa. Researchers chose this cottonwood for the small size of its genome--roughly 550 million base pairs long--and for the commercial utility of Populus species like cottonwood, hybrid poplar, and aspen. The genetic sequence may provide information helpful in forestry, ecological preservation, or phytoremediation efforts.


The sequencing itself will be done at JGI, which plans to finish one 3x pass this year, evaluate those results, and conduct another 3x pass next year.


Researchers at Oak Ridge and other labs will coordinate the effort and put the sequence data in its biological context. "When that sequence information becomes available, we'll be very interested in using it on behalf of the scientific community, forest industry, or DOE," said Oak Ridge environmental scientist Stan Wullschleger. "We're looking to understand how trees grow, what makes trees unique, and applying that information not only to basic scientific understanding but DOE missions like carbon sequestration and phytoremediation."


The project is funded by the DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

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