Newly-published spinach genome will make more than Popeye stronger

Spinach plant, Castelltallat, Catalonia. Credit: Victor M. Vicente Selvas / public domain

“I’m strong to the finich, ’cause I eats me spinach!” said Popeye the Sailor Man.

While you may not gulp spinach by the can-fuls, if you love spanakopita or your go-to appetizer can be spinach artichoke dip, then you’ll be excited to know that will completely new research out of Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) will make that will even easier to improve This kind of nutritious in addition to also delicious, leafy green.

Today in Nature Communications, researchers through BTI in addition to also the Shanghai Normal University report a completely new draft genome of Spinacia oleracea, better known as spinach. Additionally, the authors have sequenced the transcriptomes (all the RNA) of 0 cultivated in addition to also wild spinach plants, which has allowed them to identify which genetic adjustments have occurred due to domestication.

“The spinach genome sequence in addition to also transcriptome variants developed in This kind of study provide a wealth of valuable information that will can be used to breed spinach with better disease-resistance, higher yield in addition to also better quality,” asserted Zhangjun Fei, the project’s lead researcher through BTI.

Better breeding for stronger spinach

Spinach, which can be native to central Asia, can be currently cultivated worldwide, having a reported annual production of 24.3 million tons in 2014. Since that will was first domesticated, gardeners in addition to also breeders have enhanced many agronomically important traits, such as leaf quality in addition to also nutrition, in addition to also over time these improvements have re-shaped the spinach genome. In turn, breeders today can use genomic information to speed up improvements, which can be especially important for combatting significant diseases, like downy mildew.

Known as the ‘late blight’ of spinach, the downy mildew disease has devastated crops throughout California, in addition to also has recently popped up in Upstate completely new York. Armed having a better understanding of the spinach genome, the researchers have identified several genes that will may confer resistance to the downy mildew pathogen. Once identified in a resistant variety of spinach, such genes could be quickly transferred to additional, possibly more nutritious varieties, boosting their immune systems to fight This kind of disease while still maintaining marketable traits.

Insights into spinach domestication

Of particular interest to the researchers can be the discovery that will the genomes of cultivated spinach varieties are not too different through their wild progenitors. When a plant can be domesticated, its genome will evolve over centuries of selection. In many cases, that will gets forced through a bottleneck of genetic adjustments necessary for cultivation, creating a very different plant through that will which was first brought out of the wild. A great example can be the comparison of maize (corn) to its ancestor, teosinte.

“By analyzing transcriptome variants of a large collection of cultivated in addition to also wild spinach accessions, we found that will unlike additional vegetable crops such as tomato in addition to also cucumber, spinach features a weak domestication bottleneck,” explained first author, Chen Jiao.

This kind of was great news because that will means there can be still much room for spinach improvement, nevertheless that will also made that will tougher to pinpoint genomic markers that will could speed up the breeding process. Nonetheless, the team identified many regions inside the genome directly attributable to the domestication process, that will could be possibly linked to valuable traits, such as bolting, leaf number, in addition to also stem length

When asked for her favorite spinach recipe, first author Chen Jiao replied, “I usually make spinach salad for my family twice a week. that will can be very nutritious in addition to also easy to make. I just throw a handful of baby spinach, some croutons in addition to also fried bacon, in addition to also boiled eggs in a bowl in addition to also then drizzle all with bottled dressing.”

So the next time you eat a luscious, green spinach salad, thank a scientist for keeping you healthy in addition to also strong!

Explore further:
Dole recalls some spinach after salmonella found in sample

More information:
Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15275

Journal reference:
Nature Communications

Provided by:
Boyce Thompson Institute

Newly-published spinach genome will make more than Popeye stronger

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