Unravelling the secrets of strawberry
Publication of DNA sequence will reduce time to develop new fruits
Auckland, New Zealand. 27 December 2010…Scientists have unravelled the genetic secret of a Christmas favourite – the
Scientists from 38 organisations in ten countries, including scientists at Plant & Food Research, have collaborated to publish the complete DNA sequence of woodland strawberry. This genome sequence will
be utilised by scientists in identifying genes and gene function in a number of fruit crops, ultimately speeding up the
time to produce new varieties.
The woodland strawberry was the original strawberry cultivated in Europe in the 17th Century. It is cousin to a modern
Christmas favourite, the garden strawberry, one of the youngest cultivated fruits originating around 250 years ago
through modern plant breeding techniques.
The strawberry has the smallest genome in the Rosaceae family, which includes other well known fruits such as apple,
peach, and berries. Due to its quick reproduction time and the small area needed to grow the plant, strawberry is an
ideal model plant for fruit gene studies. Most of the genes in strawberry are present in other Rosaceae plants, although
many are duplicated resulting in more complex genomes and plant structures. Using the strawberry genome to identify and
understand genes that control key traits, such as colour and flavour, scientists can identify the matching gene in other
fruit plants and screen breeding populations for individual plants with ideal characteristic combinations.
“The Rosaceae family is vital for modern horticulture, producing highly valuable fruits such apple, peach, nectarine,
almonds and berryfruits,” says Dr Roger Hellens, Science Leader Genomics at Plant & Food Research. “By having the sequence of the most genetically-basic of these plants, strawberry, we can search for
genes controlling key commercial traits and identify them in related plants. This will ultimately speed up our search in
the more complex Rosaceae genomes and allow us to reduce the time to breed fruit plants with characteristics most
desired by the consumer.”
The complete genome of the woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca, is published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics
and includes only 206 million DNA base pairs, encoding close to 35,000 genes. The apple genome, published in August
2010, is three times the size. The strawberry genome is the second smallest plant genome to be sequenced – the sequence
for Arabidopsis, widely used as a model in plant studies, is about 125 million DNA base pairs and was first published in