Genotyping-by-Sequencing Used to Analyze Sorghum Genome; Results May Usher in New Uses for This Grain in Food and Fuel

Although sorghum lines underwent adaptation to be grown in temperate climates decades ago, a University of Illinois researcher said he and his team have completed the first comprehensive genomic analysis of the molecular changes behind that adaptation. Dr. Patrick Brown, an assistant professor in plant breeding and genetics, said having a complete characterization of the locations (loci) affecting specific traits will speed up the adaptation of sorghum and other related grasses to new production systems for both food and fuel. Dr. Brown is working on the project through the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at the University of Illinois, hoping to use the sorghum findings as a launching pad for working with complex genomes of other feedstocks. The EBI provided the startup funding for the study. To adapt the drought-resistant, tropical sorghum to temperate climates, Dr. Brown explained that sorghum lines were converted over the years by selecting and crossing exotic lines with temperate-adapted lines to create lines that were photoperiod-insensitive for early maturity, as well as shorter plants that could be machine-harvested. "Surprisingly no one had ever really genotyped these lines to figure out what had happened when they were adapted," Dr. Brown said. "Now that genotyping is cheap, you can get a lot of data for a modest investment." Previous studies had looked at a specific genomic region or a smaller subset of these lines. "This is the first study to look at all of them. A previous paper had come out looking at a specific region of chromosome 6. What we did was not much more expensive, and we got a bigger picture that was completely technology enabled," he said. The results were published online on June 26, 2013 in an open-access article in Genome Biology.
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