Scientists explore the domestication of spinach and the genetic basis of agronomic traits

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On December 13, Professor JIAO Chen from the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Zhejiang University and FEI Professor Zhangjun from the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University co-published a research paper titled “Genomic Analyzes Provide Information on Spinach Domestication and the Genetic Basis of Agronomic Traits ”in the journal Nature Communications.

Spinach is a remarkably nutritious leafy vegetable belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family. However, there has been little research on its resistance to major diseases and its improvement, largely due to the lack of data regarding its genome and genetic diversity. To this end, JIAO Chen and colleagues conducted relevant research on the Spinach Genome Project. The results of their research had already been published in the journal Nature Communications in 2017. This genome is still in the project phase due to the limits of technology and equipment.

Monoe-Viroflay spinach genome

In the present study, researchers assembled a well-improved chromosome-scale reference genome of spinach using long PacBio reads and high throughput chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) technology. They reconstructed the ancestral Chenopodiacea karyotype, which indicated substantial genomic rearrangements in spinach following its divergence from ancestral Chenopodiaceae, coinciding with repeated high content in the spinach genome.

Spinach late blight (MD) resistance GWAS

Jiao and his collaborators sequenced the genomes of 305 cultivated and wild spinach accessions collected from around the world and constructed a high-density genomic variation map that allowed them to dissect the genetic architecture of complex spinach traits to l ‘Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) assistance. At the same time, their GWAS analyzes on 20 agronomic traits identified a series of genomic regions associated with these candidate traits and genes, thus facilitating the selection of spinach cultivars characterized by resistance to late blight and a reduced content of soluble oxalate. Additionally, by comparing the genetic diversity of wild and cultivated spinach, the researchers also identified genomic domestication characteristics of spinach differentiated from other crops as well as some selected regions associated with spinach domestication traits (e.g., leaf phenotype , stemming and flowering), demonstrating the role of artificial selection in the formation of the genomic and phenotypic evolution of spinach.

“Our study not only provides information on the evolution and domestication of spinach, but also valuable resources to aid in spinach breeding,” Jiao said.

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