Ash Dieback live Q&A

8th Mar 2013

The first DNA sequence data on the ash dieback fungus has been made freely available on crowdsourcing website OpenAshDieBack by scientists receiving major funding for a two-year research project.

More sequence will be published online and “live reviewed” as it is generated by multiple research partners led by The Sainsbury Laboratory and The John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park. With £1.5 million from BBSRC they will collaborate to analyse the full genomes of ash and the ash dieback fungus Chalara fraxinea. 

Researchers from around the world are invited to help analyse the DNA sequences and to peer review analysis made by others. In the longer term, genetically mapping the ash genes that confer resistance to the pathogen could pave the way for recovery from the epidemic.

“With this funding and by making all our discoveries freely and immediately available, this will no longer be a Cinderella area of research,” said project leader Professor Allan Downie from the John Innes Centre.

“We won’t be able to solve the whole problem in the life of this collaboration. However, we aim to use new technologies to help tree breeders select the best trees to cross-fertilise. We hope to generate the knowledge needed to understand why this fungus has become such a problem. That knowledge will catalyse further research around the world.”

It will be the first time that some advanced genetic techniques such as ‘associative transcriptomics’ are used in trees. This is where the expressed genes of plant varieties are compared to identify markers for traits. These can be used to speed up marker assisted breeding.

“Ash and Chalara genomics have never before been studied in the level of detail we are doing,” said Downie.

Joan Webber, Erik Kahl, Dan Maclean and Allan Downie will be answering your questions about the ash dieback project via a web chat from 12-1 on Monday 11th March. Questions can be sent via email to oadb@tsl.ac.uk or via Twitter using #oadb.

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