Genome sequence gives bounce to rubber industry

1st Nov 2010

Earlier this month, researchers from The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) and the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC), the Malaysian Rubber Board's (MRB) research centre in the United Kingdom, announced the completion of a high quality draft sequence of the genome of a high-yielding rubber tree.

Ongoing work to refine and analyse the genome draft will focus on genes linked to commercially important traits and will provide enormous scope for improving natural rubber's properties as well as the performance of the crop, and will be essential for addressing issues affecting the rubber industry in the future.

The world's demand for natural rubber continues to increase, but climate change and diseases, such as South American Leaf Blight and white root rot, threaten the cultivation the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.

Traditional rubber tree improvement is a lengthy and difficult process. The availability of the annotated Hevea genome sequence will enable the development of a large database of molecular marker that can be used to identify genes involved in commercially important traits, which will help make breeding schemes more efficient.

Malaysia's Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, announced the findings at the Malaysian Rubber Board's Technology Transfer Day 2010 in Selangor, Malaysia on 12 October saying, "The MRB takes pride in presenting the completion of the draft Hevea brasiliensis genome sequence, just over a year after the project was announced."

The challenge posed by the size and anticipated complexity of the Hevea genome was overcome by the TGAC team, who generated the draft sequence in only nine months, using two next generation sequencing platforms in a dual approach that enabled fast and accurate assembly of an approximately 80-fold sequence coverage of the genome. An early calculation indicates that 20% of the genome contains functional genes.

The Minister continued, "The ultimate aim is to narrow down on the genes linked to latex yield, rubberwood timber, disease resistance and other commercially important traits that are crucial for further improvement of this important commodity, and in addressing many of the issues facing rubber growers and manufacturers worldwide.

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