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Scientists from China have sequenced the genome of the rubber tree


Singapore - AsianScientist Magazine reports, "Scientists from China have sequenced the genome of the rubber tree, or Hevea brasiliensis. The work, published in Nature Plants, by scientists from the Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Rubber Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Science, could give researchers a better understanding of how the rubber tree produces rubber. Rubber trees are economically important for their product, natural rubber. As an industrial commodity, natural rubber has excellent physical and chemical properties that cannot be fully matched by petroleum-derived synthetic rubber. Using next-generation sequencing technology, the team sequenced an elite rubber cultivar that is widely planted in China. They generated a 1.37 Gb high-quality genome assembly covering about 94 percent of the predicted genome size. The expansion of vast repetitive elements makes the genome size of rubber tree apparently larger than its closely-related species, such as cassava, castor oil, cottonwood and flax. An apparent expansion was observed in the REF/SRPP gene family, a well-known participant of rubber biosynthesis. REF1, a member of this family, was much more highly expressed in latex than the others, indicating its predominant role in rubber production. Evolution analysis among the REF/SRPP members of the rubber tree and 17 other plant species revealed that REF1 is special for its smaller size. Its emergence is a recent event that might have endowed the modern Hevea with a capacity for high rubber production. “The data from this study, together with other public resources, pave a way for whole genome association studies, germplasm improvement and genetic modification of Hevea to meet increasing global demand for natural rubber,the researchers wrote."

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