Genome sequences of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant used as a model organism in plant biology, are described this week in two independent studies published in Nature and Nature Genetics. These studies report the first phase of the 1001 Genomes Project, which aims to characterize whole-genome sequence variation in 1,001 different strains of A. thaliana found across Europe, Asia and parts of Africa.
Detlef Weigel and colleagues report in Nature Genetics the genome sequences of 80 A. thaliana strains. A. thaliana naturally survives in a range of climates and elevations, and these strains were selected to represent the native range and species diversity, including sampling within eight populations across Eurasia. The authors characterized genetic variation between the strains, and considered its effects on gene function. A comparison with sequences of closely related plants identifies processes important in the evolution of this plant species and its adaptation to a range of environments.
Reporting in Nature, Richard Mott and colleagues describe the sequencing and analysis of the genomes and transcriptomes of 18 A. thaliana strains, which were selected to represent a geographically and phenotypically diverse sample. Unlike traditional approaches to comparative genomics, in this study, each individual genome was compared to each other individual genome, in a 'many to many' approach, which enhances the capture of variation and sets a new paradigm for comparative genomics.
By surveying genetic diversity across populations, these studies provide an invaluable resource for characterizing patterns of evolution and adaptation of the plant to a wide range of different native environments.