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Consortium Releases Pear Genome Data

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – An international team led by investigators at China's Nanjing Agricultural University announced today that it has finished sequencing a draft version of the pear genome and is making data from the effort available to other researchers online.

The pear genome consortium, which kicked off its sequencing efforts in the spring of 2010, included dozens of researchers from Nanjing Agricultural University's Centre for Pear Engineering Technology Research, BGI-Shenzhen, the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Japan's Tohoku University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Georgia, and the University of Hawaii.

The pear genus, Pyrus, includes almost two-dozen species and thousands of cultivars or accessions that fall into two main groups: the European or "Occidental" pears and the Asiatic or "Oriental" pears.

The current sequencing effort has yielded a high-quality diploid draft genome sequence for the commercially important Asiatic pear cultivar "Suli," P. bretschneideri Rehd. cv. Dangshansuli. The assembly, which has been aligned using a genetic map that represents pear's 17 chromosomes, reportedly covers an estimated 97.1 percent of the plant's whole genome.

Those involved in the study say the pear sequence should serve as a resource for those keen on better understanding pear evolution and its relationships to other plants. Pears are believed to have originated in what is now southwest China some 55 million to 65 million years ago, before spreading to other parts of the world.

On the breeding front, meanwhile, the genome is expected to help unravel genetic features and commercially important traits — information that could eventually help in breeding plants with enhanced fruit flavor, color, quality, and shelf life while curbing the pear plant's susceptibility to insects and disease.

Sequence data from the pear genome sequencing project was released online at the end of May and is available through the Pear Genome Project web site. According to that site, a publication outlining findings from the pear sequencing project is in the works.