Image: Richard Wheeler/Wikimedia Commons.
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Genome jealousy

Image: Richard Wheeler/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Richard Wheeler/Wikimedia Commons.

By way of a bit of an advertisement for the news site of another science organ – and to dispel any doubts that I am a complete techno-phobe – I’m happy to publicise information concerning recent plant-relevant DNA sequencing activities (originally sourced from the article by Hannah Waters at http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/58161/), which includes: Leptosphaeria maculans (genome size: 45 million base pairs, MBP), a pathogenic ascomycete fungus that causes stem canker in members of the Brassicaceae (which family includes such important members as arabidopsis, oilseed rape and cabbages) (Thierry Rouxel et al., Nature Communications 2: 202; doi:10.1038/ncomms1189); Wheat stem rust fungus, Puccinia graminis (88.6 MBP), which includes the notorious Ug99 strain that is currently threatening global wheat harvests; and the unpopular Poplar leaf rust fungus, Melampsora larici-populina (101.1 MBP) (Sébastien Duplessis and co-workers, PNAS; doi:10.1073/pnas.1019315108). Unicellular autotrophs get a look in with Aureococcus anophagefferens (56 MBP), a harmful algal bloom (HAB) -causing pelagophyte (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eukaryotic_picoplankton_species). Using an ecogenomics approach, Christopher Gobler et al. (PNAS 108: 4352–4357, 2011) reveal that the alga has more genes involved in light harvesting, organic carbon and nitrogen use than competing phytoplankton, which presumably helps it bloom and overwhelm the competition. Furthermore, genes for the synthesis of microbial deterrents are thought likely to further facilitate its proliferation with reduced mortality losses during blooms. And DNA-containing organelles are not overlooked: the chloroplast of Bryopsis hypnoides (153 000 base pairs), a siphonous green alga (Fang Lü et al., PLoS ONE 6: e14663; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014663, 2011).

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international phytological organ for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I also continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Botany One. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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