NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers are undertaking a project to sequence 1,001 different genomes of the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology announced yesterday.
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology Director Detlef Weigel and his colleagues reported data from the first step of the project online last week in Genome Research, illustrating that they could sequence the Arabidopsis genome using short reads generated with an Illumina Genome Analyzer.
Thale cress is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but only recently have scientists started to understand how genetically diverse the organism really is. For the 1001 Genomes Project, researchers intend to sequence a total of 1,001 A. thaliana genomes and then look at how genetic differences between strains correlate with factors such as plant growth speed, branching, and infection resistance.
So far researchers have sequenced and compared the genomes of two A. thaliana — one from Ireland and one from Japan — and found them to be surprisingly distinct from one another, differing by several percent of their sequence. The researchers hope to understand this sort of variation within a broader species context, comparing 1,001 strains from around the world.
“Is there indeed something like ‘the’ genome of a species, or do we have to change our point of view and focus on the genome of an individual?” Weigel said in a statement.
The team plans to sequence the genomes of 80 thale cress strains by January 2009 and 1,001 strains over the next two years.