Sunflower genome sequence to provide roadmap for more resilient crops

The international scientist team has published the first sunflower genome sequence in June in the journal Nature. This new resource will assist future research programs using genetic tools to improve crop resilience and oil production.

Known for its beauty and also as an important source of food, the sunflower is a global oil crop that shows promise for climate change adaptation because it can maintain stable yields across a wide variety of environmental conditions, including drought. However, assembling the sunflower genome has until recently been difficult, because it mostly consists of highly similar, related sequences.

The research team in North America and Europe sequenced the genome of the domesticated sunflower Helianthus annuus L. They also performed comparative and genome-wide analyses, which provide insights into the evolutionary history of Asterids.

They identified new candidate genes and reconstructed genetic networks that control flowering time and oil metabolism, two major sunflower breeding traits, and found that the flowering time networks have been shaped by the past duplication of the entire genome. Their findings suggest that ancient copies of genes can retain their functionality and still influence traits of interest after tens of millions of years.

“The sunflower genome is over 40 percent larger than the maize [corn] genome, and roughly 20 percent larger than the human genome, and its highly repetitive nature made it a unique challenge for assembly,” said paper co-author John M. Burke.

This genome represents a cornerstone for future research programs aiming to exploit genetic diversity to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance and oil production.


Hélène Badouin et al, The sunflower genome provides insights into oil metabolism, flowering and Asterid evolution, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature22380

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPrint this page