Eucalyptus tree genome to be sequenced

The Eucalyptus research community may in the near future benefit from a second eucalypt genome sequencing effort (the first effort is being undertaken by Japan). At the last business meeting of the International Eucalyptus Genome Consortium (see meeting report at the Consortium was invited to submit a proposal to the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the sequencing powerhouse of the US Department of Energy, to generate a draft sequence of the genome of Eucalyptus grandis, one of the most widely planted Eucalyptus tree species.

At the same meeting, Dr. Takashi Hibino of Oji Paper reported on the ongoing E. camaldulensis genome sequencing effort at KAZUSA DNA Research Institute in Japan. These are certainly exciting times for eucalypt researchers! The detailed genome sequencing proposal to be submitted by June 2006 is now being finalized by a group of scientists from several countries world-wide, led by ACGT contributor Dr. Zander Myburg from the University of Pretoria, the coordinator of the International Eucalyptus Genome Consortium.

The formation of an international collaborative network around the Eucalyptus genome started some three years ago at an IUFRO Tree Biotechnology conference in Umea, Sweden in 2003. After a series of meetings in Australia and Japan in the last two years, DOE scientist, Dr. Jerry Tuskan, announced at the Tree Biotechnology conference held in Nov 2005 in Pretoria, South Africa, that JGI would consider a proposal for a Eucalyptus genome sequencing project in the context of the “Genomes to Energy” focus area of the recently launched Laboratory Science Program at JGI.

The availability of a draft sequence of the Eucalyptus grandis genome will generate extraordinary opportunities for reaching a much higher level of understanding of the unique biology of forest trees and will have obvious implications for eucalypt-based production forestry as well as environmentally relevant issues such as carbon sequestration and water use efficiency of eucalypt plantations.

ACGT contributors will take active roles in the genome sequencing initiative and generation of eucalypt genomics resources after the completion of the draft genome sequence. Dr. Fourie Joubert of the Pretoria Node of the National Bioinformatics Network (NBN) will contribute towards the generation of a bioinformatics resource for the eucalypt research community. Dr. Zander Myburg will contribute towards the high-density genetic mapping of the E. grandis genome.