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The Wheat Genome Sequence Odyssey

Wheat Genome Sequence Odyssey

An article retracing the history of the IWGSC, from 4 people in 2005 to 1,800 members now, 12 years later.

A few excepts:

"One of the first steps was to determine what should be sequenced: progenitors of bread wheat, or one of the diploid, tetraploid, or hexaploidy wheats. Industry and growers made the choice simple. They unanimously supported sequencing what is growing on 95% of wheat fields, the hexaploid bread wheat genome, Triticum aestivum, and preferably the variety for which the most genetic stocks exist and which could be translated quickly into breeding programmes. [...] In the landscape of rapidly changing sequencing technologies, it was critical to select an approach that would be “technology neutral”, i.e. one that would allow them to build resources that could be used regardless of the sequencing technology available at the time. Then, the only technology neutral foundation was a BAC-based physical map."

"The concept of building physical maps for each chromosome/chromosome arm of bread wheat was a daunting challenge and was viewed with much scepticism by most in the scientific community. However, scepticism turned to interest in 2008 with the completion of the high-quality physical map of the largest wheat chromosome – 3B, equivalent in size to the entire soybean genome. [...] As sequencing technologies became more efficient and affordable, the IWGSC established a side project in 2010 that would generate draft survey sequences of individual chromosomes."

"The real breakthrough came with the software DeNovoMAGICTM which was developed by the firm NRGene to be used to assemble Illumina whole genome sequence. With this, the IWGSC could produce a whole genome assembly of the 16Gb genome in 7 months and validate its quality against other sequence-based and chromosome-based resources developed by the IWGSC over the previous years."

"What started with 4 people in 2005, has now grown to 1800 members working in more than 530 institutes or companies in 62 countries. The IWGSC reached its goal of generating a high-quality reference sequence of bread wheat, a significant milestone for agriculture and the scientific community and now work will focus on manual and functional annotation of the reference sequence as well as sequence improvement."

Read the article on the Global Engage website: The Wheat Genome Sequence Odyssey