Research highlight

Stop and smell the rose genome

Nature Genetics

May 1, 2018

The genome sequence of the modern rose is the subject of a paper published online this week in Nature Genetics. This reference provides molecular insights into the genes and metabolic processes responsible for the unique color and smell traits of the flower.

Modern roses, prized for their beauty and scent, have complex genomes that need to be decoded to fully harness the genetic information as a means to improve upon the species. Previous rose genome assemblies, however, were highly fragmented and therefore difficult to decipher.

Mohammed Bendahmane and colleagues applied long-read sequencing and a microspore culturing protocol to assemble a high-quality genome of Rosa chinensis, a modern rose species known as ‘Old Blush’. This resulted in one of the most intact plant genome sequences in existence. The authors were able to perform comparative genomic analyses with other plants, including strawberry, apricot, peach, apple and pear, to explore rose ancestry and evolution. The genomic information combined with biochemical and molecular analyses uncovers new genetic pathways relating to color and scent.

The authors also identify other candidate genes for flowering, which could be potential targets in genetically improving rose cultivars. The authors suggest that this genomic resource and the new insights presented lay the groundwork for researchers and breeders to manipulate flowering, color, water-use efficiency, strengthen scent, or increase the vase life of roses.

doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0110-3

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