BGI has entered an agreement with Oregon State University to conduct collaborative de novo genome sequencing and transcriptome analysis of nine Phytophthora plant pathogens. This agreement kicks off a larger collaborative project between BGI and the Phytophthora Genus Sequencing Consortium to conduct collaborative de novo genome sequencing and transcriptome analysis of all known species of the Phytophthora genus of destructive plant pathogens. In total, 150 genomes, together with 300 transcriptomes, will eventually be sequenced under this agreement. The consortium agreement was initiated by Oregon State's incoming Director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, Brett Tyler, with the support of an Advisory Board of twelve Phytophthora experts from around the world.
Phytophthora is a genus of plant-damaging pathogens whose member species are capable of causing enormous economic losses to crops, forests and ornamental plantings worldwide, as well as environmental damage in natural ecosystems. The genus is responsible for the Irish potato famine. Approximately 120 species have been described so far, although many more undiscovered Phytophthora species are estimated to exist. In general, plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult to control chemically, and thus the growth of resistant cultivars is the main management strategy. Phytophthora pathogens cause tens of billions of US dollars of destruction each year.
Under the collaboration agreement, Oregon State researchers will provide BGI with the genomic DNA and RNA samples for analysis by next-generation sequencing technologies. The sequencing work will include sequencing and bioinformatics analysis, including de novo assembly, gene calling and functional annotation of called genes.
"We are excited to have joined forces with BGI to initiate the formation of the Phytophthora Genus Sequencing Consortium," stated Brett Tyler, who will join Oregon State from Virginia Tech's Virginia Bioinformatics Institute in December 2011. "Given BGI's expertise in genomic sequencing, transcriptomics and bioinformatics, and its extensive experience researching numerous key plant genomes, we expect our relationship to lead to significant research findings that should help protect a variety of plant species, especially agricultural crops, from the damaging effects of Phytophthora pathogens."
Dr Michael Coffey, a board member and curator of the Worldwide Phytophthora Collection (WPC) at the University of California, Riverside, commented, "I am pleased to contribute the resources of the WPC to this exciting effort. The WPC houses validated isolates of all known Phytophthora species." Professor Yuanchao Wang of Nanjing Agricultural University, a board member and consortium member stated, "This is a truly international effort that already involves researchers from the U.S., China, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden."
"We look forward to working with Oregon State and other Consortium members to undertake this important research," added Professor Huanming Yang, Chairman of BGI. "Sequencing, transcriptomic and bioinformatics analysis contributed by BGI to the Consortium will yield findings and data that will be shared by all Consortium members, including Oregon State and other institutions. We believe that by "dividing and conquering," all Consortium participants will derive enormous benefit with greater efficiency and reduced cost."