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You Say Potato, I Say 'Highly Heterozygous Autotetraploid'

An international consortium of researchers has reported results from a study of the potato genome, reports New Scientist's Debora MacKenzie. Most potatoes hold four copies of its genome, each of which is different from the others, "making sequencing a nightmare," MacKenzie says. The Potato Genome Sequencing Consotium, which published its work in Nature, was able to get around this problem by growing a whole plant in culture from one pollen cell, producing potatoes with just one copy of the genome. Among other things, the study reveals that potatoes have a hard time resisting disease because many of the genes that confer resistance to pathogens are mutated or broken, MacKenzie says. Researchers hope that the sequence will make it easier to breed better potatoes more quickly and that certain desired traits in potato crops can be selected for in the breeding process.

At the Genotype blog, blogger Playwright in the Cages has a different take on the story — Playwright finds it "comforting" that potatoes have about double the number of active genes that humans do because "it's just another demonstration that the cultural assumption that humans must be the most complex of nature's creations because we're (allegedly) the smartest ... is based on a false paradigm of 'evolution as an advance in complexity' with us at the top of the pyramid."

Daily Scan's sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this story here.

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