Research Highlights

Plant genetics: The cotton genome

Subject Categories: Genetics

Published online 3 October 2012


Comparative genome analysis shows that cotton and cacao have many things in common

Felix Cheung

© (2012) Hughes

Cotton is one of the world's most economically important crop plants. The fibres can be used to make T-shirts, jeans, robes and towels, while the seeds can be processed for oil. Our ancestors have been cultivating cotton for thousands of years, and over 50 different species of cotton are now growing across America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Shuxun Yu at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Anyang, Jun Wang at BGI-Shenzhen, Yuxian Zhu at Peking University in Beijing, and co-workers have sequenced and assembled a draft genome of the cotton species Gossypium raimondii. This draft genome is estimated to cover approximately 88.1% of the total genome, and will be important for achieving genetic improvements in cotton quality and productivity.

The researchers identified 40,976 protein-coding genes in the cotton genome, 9,525 of which are shared by cacao, thale cress and maize. A comparison of these genomes also showed that cotton and cacao used to be in the same clade, diverging from a common ancestor approximately 33.7 million years ago. It is therefore unsurprising that cotton and cacao share the CDN1 gene family and are the only sequenced plant species known to be capable of gossypol biosynthesis.


  1. Wang, K. et al. The draft genome of a diploid cotton Gossypium raimondii. Nature Genet. 10.1038/ng.2371 (2012).