Most Complex Potato Genome Sequence to Date Revealed
Scientists from the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Solynta – a Dutch potato breeding and biotech company – have published the most complete genome sequence for the potatoes to date. A unique aspect is that both sequence and plant material are made available for research (under specific conditions).
This may in the future result in a potato that is more resistant to heat or drought or has a greater resistance to diseases.
The potato is one of the most important food crops worldwide. Improvements to its traits can, therefore, have a major impact. Reading the genome structure of the potato is extremely tricky, however, as a regular potato consists of four genomes, which makes it difficult to determine the position of the genes. The recent research applied to a diploid real potato plant with only one genome, a so-called homozygote, which makes it easier to read and compare the DNA base sequence. This plant, Solyntus, was produced as part of Solynta’s hybrid potato breeding program.
“The previously available genome sequence, which I also helped establish, consisted of approximately 125,000 small segments. The genome we are presenting now comprises 185 large segments. This is a significant improvement which was achieved via a combination of unique plant material and new sequencing and analysis techniques. While the previous sequence involved a wild variety of the potato, we have now used an actual potato plant. I hope and expect that our work will eventually lead to a more efficient and faster potato breeding process,” said Richard Visser, professor at the department of Plant Breeding at WUR.
According to Solynta’s R&D Director Pim Lindhout, this concrete result of a public-private partnership proves that new properties can be described and cross-bred faster together.
“Two years ago, we showed that we could make a potato plant that is disease-resistant within two years. This latest breakthrough means we can also explore and utilize other traits more quickly. I am convinced that this will lead to more sustainable potato production far sooner,” Lindhout explained.
Various research projects within the WUR use both the plant and the sequence, enabling scientists to link experimental results to the genetic code. The very accurate genome sequence allows faster and more focused breeding, as it is easier to find in the DNA which cross-breeds with other varieties might be of interest, and where the exchange of genetic material between “father” and “mother” should ideally take place. This means scientists know at an early stage whether the potato has the desired traits, such as resistance to specific diseases.