The use of genetic information is now essential for modern plant breeding. Even though DNA sequencing has become much cheaper since the human genome was first decoded in 2003, collecting all of the genetic information still represents a large part of the costs of animal breeding and vegetable. One trick to reducing these costs is to sequence only a very small part of the randomly selected genome and fill in the remaining gaps using mathematical and statistical techniques. An interdisciplinary research team from the University of Göttingen developed a new methodological approach for this, which was published in the journal PLoS genetics.
“The central idea of the method is to recognize ‘haplotype blocks’, by which we mean longer sections of the genome which are very similar in different plants due to heredity, and to use this structure in mosaic to compile the rest of the information, “says Dr Torsten Pook of the Center for Integrated Livestock Research at the University of Göttingen. “In breeding populations, the sequences completed using this new method are of a quality comparable to collecting one hundred times more information from the DNA strand.” The goal of the researchers is to select maize plants that are not very sensitive to damage caused by frost and drought within the framework of the MAZE project. Project partner KWS Saat SE is already using the method in breeding programs due to its cost effectiveness.
“Another advantage is that the method allows us not only to detect differences in individual nucleotides in the DNA strand, but also to recognize structural differences which have heretofore been virtually unusable for selection purposes,” Pook explains. As it stands, however, the method can currently only be used effectively for inbred lines in plant breeding. A follow-up study aimed at extending the method to organisms with a regular double set of chromosomes is already planned. This would mean that their new method could be used for most vertebrates, including humans.
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