NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Malaysian Minister of Higher Education announced this week that an international team of researchers led by investigators at the Universiti Sains Malaysia has sequenced the draft genome of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.
Minister Dato' Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin announced the completion of the rubber tree draft genome project — done as part of USM's "Transforming Higher Education for a Sustainable Tomorrow," an effort to benefit Malaysians through scientific discovery and intellectual infrastructure — at a news conference in Penang yesterday.
The team reportedly used three different second-generation platforms to sequence the roughly two billion bases of the rubber tree genome, which has since been assembled and annotated.
Those involved have started using information in the genome to begin untangling the plant's biosynthetic pathways — which they hope will provide insights that benefit the multi-billion dollar natural rubber industry. The researchers also are touting the draft genome's potential for revealing markers to improve rubber tree breeding by allowing breeders to select desirable traits such as speedy development and disease resistance.
Natural rubber is one of Malaysia's top commercial crops, covering nearly a quarter of the country's cultivated land and generating more than four percent of its export earnings.