Cool bananas! – genetically speaking

Scientists at the Université d’Evry in France have sequenced the genome of the wild banana, Musa acuminata, the species that gave rise to the commonly eaten Cavendish and other varieties. The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant, whose ancestor came into existence in the Jurassic period, more than 125 million years ago. The 523 Mbp (523,000,000 base pair) sequence, which contains 36,542 protein-coding genes, was decoded not only to classify the evolutionary history of the banana, but also to identify ways to genetically advance it, improving resistance to pests, expanding the environmental conditions in which it can grow and enhancing the ripening process.

Some very interesting findings that came up along the way include the identification of banana streak virus sequences inserted into the banana’s DNA, presumably following a nasty infection. These viral genomic integrations were found in 10 out of the banana’s 11 chromosomes, but were fragmented and likely incapable of producing live infectious virus. This is ancient evidence that the banana was once under a strong infectious threat, but survived in all its deliciousness until the present day.

Read the original research article here.

D'Hont A, Denoeud F, Aury JM, Baurens FC, Carreel F, Garsmeur O, Noel B, Bocs S, Droc G, Rouard M, Da Silva C, Jabbari K, Cardi C, Poulain J, Souquet M, Labadie K, Jourda C, Lengellé J, Rodier-Goud M, Alberti A, Bernard M, Correa M, Ayyampalayam S, Mckain MR, Leebens-Mack J, Burgess D, Freeling M, Mbéguié-A-Mbéguié D, Chabannes M, Wicker T, Panaud O, Barbosa J, Hribova E, Heslop-Harrison P, Habas R, Rivallan R, Francois P, Poiron C, Kilian A, Burthia D, Jenny C, Bakry F, Brown S, Guignon V, Kema G, Dita M, Waalwijk C, Joseph S, Dievart A, Jaillon O, Leclercq J, Argout X, Lyons E, Almeida A, Jeridi M, Dolezel J, Roux N, Risterucci AM, Weissenbach J, Ruiz M, Glaszmann JC, Quétier F, Yahiaoui N, & Wincker P (2012). The banana (Musa acuminata) genome and the evolution of monocotyledonous plants. Nature, 488 (7410), 213-7 PMID: 22801500

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