An international research team has sequenced the genome of the woodland strawberry, opening the door for breeding tastier, hardier varieties of the berry and other crops in its family.
Using a hybrid program called GeneMark.hmm-ES+, which uses both DNA and RNA sequences to predict protein-coding genes, the team found that the strawberry genome possesses around 35,000 genes, about one and a half times the number humans have.
The woodland strawberry,known as Fragaria vesca, is a member of the Rosaceae family, which consists of more than 100 genera and 3,000 species. This large family includes many economically important and popular fruit, nut, ornamental and woody crops, including the cultivated strawberry, almond, apple, peach, cherry, raspberry and rose.
The wealth of genetic information collected by this strawberry genome sequencing project will help spur the next wave of research into the improvement of strawberry and other fruit crops, said Georgia Tech Regents professor Mark Borodovsky.
In the long term, breeders will be able to use the information to create plants that can be grown with less environmental impact, better nutritional profiles and larger yields, researchers say.
The consortium included 75 researchers from 38 institutions that sequenced the genome.
Separately, another research team sequenced the DNA of a variety of Theobroma cacao, a tree considered to produce the world's finest chocolate. They assembled 84 percent of the genome identifying 28,798 genes that code for proteins. The team's work identified a variety of gene families that may have future impact on improving cacao trees and fruit either by enhancing their attributes or providing protection from fungal diseases and insects.
The teams published their findings in the journal Nature Genetics.