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BGI Completes Sequencing Of Foxtail Millet Genome

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Via Red Orbit, May 15, 2012

 A report published in the online journal Nature Biotechnology states that BGI, the world’s biggest genomics organization, in collaboration with Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Science, has successfully completed the analysis and genome sequence of foxtail millet (Setaria italica). Foxtail millet is the second most widely grown kind of millet.

Published on May 13, 2012, the results of the study provide a vital resource for the genetic advancement and study of foxtail millet, as well as other types of millet, on a genome-wide level.

Foxtail millet, the number one crop grown in ancient China, is a major cereal crop that provides feed for animals and food for humans in dry or semi-arid locations. The small genome size of this plant (~490M) makes it an important model for functional gene studies and comparative genomics. Other factors that make foxtail millet so vital are its complete collection of germplasm, its genetic diversity (with over six thousand varieties), and its availability of efficient transformation platforms. Developmentally it is very similar to important biofuel grasses including napier grass and switchgrass.

“The lower yield of traditional cultivars has largely limited cultivation and utilization of foxtail millet.” Dr. Gengyun Zhang, Vice President of BGI, stated.  He also said, “Hybrid cultivars, recently developed by Professor Zhihai Zhao in Zhangjiakou Agricultural Academy of Science, doubled the yield of foxtail millet. I expect that the results of this study could set an example of applying the genome sequence to better understanding and quicker developing new varieties of a neglected crop with higher yield, better grain quality and stress tolerance.”

BGI researchers conducting next-generation sequencing and de novo assembly for “Zhang gu”, a strain of foxtail millet from Northern China, found that the concluding genome assembly was 423 Mb. They predicted that 38,801 protein-coding genes would be found, out of which ~81% were revealed.  In addition to these findings, using a set of genetic markers recognized by re-sequencing an F2 population of “Zhang gu” crossing a different strain named “A2″ (the most utilized female strain of hybrid foxtail millet), the researchers created a high density genetic linkage map.