In the fight to curb the devastating effects of nematodes on the global agricultural industry, scientists in the David H. Murdock Research Institute’s (DHMRI) Genomics Laboratory and team contributed to the first complete genome sequence of the plant parasite Pratylenchus coffeae (P. coffeae).
“The team generated a new and valuable resource for the agriculture industry and scientists who study nematodes. This is important for the creation of strategies to control nematode infection,” said Mike Wang, PhD, DHMRI genomics group leader.
The Need to Knock Out Nematodes
Nematodes, all 20,000 species of them, are mostly-microscopic, parasitic worms that live primarily under the soil attacking the roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds of plants. The resulting crop damage costs the agriculture industry billions of dollars each year. The P. coffeae family of nematodes is associated with over 250 varieties of plant species in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. They are a particular problem for banana and plantain growers. They strike the roots and corm, an underground stem, leaving root lesions that stunt tree growth, decrease yields and devastate groves.
A New Agricultural Resource
DHMRI scientists partnered with investigators at NC State University in Raleigh, NC to create the first genome sequence of P. coffeae. The research is documented in the April 2015 edition of the journal Nematology in the paper “The plant parasite Pratylenchus coffeae carries a minimal nematode genome.” Horticulturists with Dole Foods, a partner at the NC Research Campus where DHMRI is located, provided samples for the study from their plantations in Costa Rica.
The central finding of this research is that the P. coffeae genome has only 6,712 protein encoding genes, which is the smallest number of any animal species characterized to date. This may define the minimum number of genes required for multicellular animals.
“This type of genomic data will lead to new ways to disrupt this plant-pathogen interaction and give biological and evolutionary insight to help understand other nematode species,” Wang said.
Garron Wright, MS, DHMRI bioinformatics lead, added, “The research we did shows the strength of our analytical pipeline. We can do the genome sequencing, assembly, annotations, predictions and analysis.”
DHMRI scientists continue to collaborate with agricultural companies and researchers on projects involving crop protection, trait discovery, medicinal characterization, nutrient metabolism and the impact of plant-based functional foods on human health.
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