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The sunflower genome reveals the orchestration of genes involved in oil production and flowering

sunflower genome reveals orchestration of genes involved in oil production and flowering
© Floyd Manzano
Less than a year after the deciphering of the sunflower genome, its in-depth analysis by a LIPM team (TULIP laboratory) led to the identification of hundreds of genes that works together to regulate flowering or oil production. The results are published in Nature (online) on May 22th, 2017.

Led by INRA scientists as part of the SUNRISE Future Investments Program project and in collaboration with the International Consortium of Sunflower Genomic Resources, these first results will help to design the cultivated varieties of the future, which are better performing and better Adapted to the necessary changes in agriculture in response to new environmental requirements, particularly in the context of climate change. These new varieties will also have to respond to food and industrial uses but also to the economic stakes of the sector.

Producing a better quality oil

The cultivated sunflower genes have been selected over the course of history: on the one hand, with the domestication of wild species by North American Indians, and on the other hand with the varietal selection carried out by crossing the most efficient varieties. The objective was to improve the characteristics of agronomic interest, such as disease resistance or oil yield. Today, thanks to the deciphering of the reference genome of sunflower, the identification of genes of agronomic interest is more precise and faster (at least three times faster).

The researchers thus compared the DNA of eighty varieties of sunflower selectedfor their characteristics of oil or seed production. The analysis of the differences, coupled with fundamental data, allowed the scientists to construct the complete panorama of the network of genes involved in the production of oil but also to identify the most interesting in terms of agronomic potential. This result will meet both consumer demand for the nutritional quality of the oil and that of agri-food manufacturers on its technological potential to make their production lines more sustainable and more efficient.

The date of flowering: a key to adapt the crop to different climates

INRA scientists have discovered that the sunflower genome, unlike the genomes of plants of the same family (as lettuce or artichoke), suffered a doubling of their size approximately 30 million years ago. This "recent" duplication explains the high number of genes in the current sunflower (over 52,000 genes). Despite this complexity, researchers have succeeded in identifying genes that express themselves specifically in the floral organs or that control the flowering date. Knowledge of the organization of these genes on the genome will serve to accelerate the process of varietal improvement of the sunflower. Thus, a wide range of precocities will be made available to farmers to allow the cultivation of sunflower in a greater number of regions.

The genome: a key asset for adapting culture to climate change and fighting diseases

Sunflower is one of the crop species that requires the least inputs and is water-efficient. In order to optimize these advantages in the context of global warming and the emergence of more aggressive parasites, the research team will now study the genes of wild varieties that confer capacity to develop during periods of severe drought or the ability to Resist the attacks of parasites that colonize crop areas. These genes can be selected and transferred to cultivated varieties to develop new varieties.

Badouin H., Gouzy J., Grassa C.J., Murat F., Staton S.E., Cottret L., Lelandais-Brière C., Owens G., Carrère S., Mayjonade B., Legrand L., Gill N., Kane N.C., Bowers J.E., Hubner S., Bellec A., Bérard A., Bergès H., Blanchet N., Boniface M.-C., Brunel D., Catrice O., Chaidir N., Claudel C., Donnadieu C., Faraut T., Fievet G., Helmstetter N., King M., Knapp S.J., Lai Z., Le Paslier M.-C., Lippi Y., Lorenzon L., Jennifer Mandel, Marage G., Marchand G., Marquand E., Bret-Mestries E., Morien E., Nambeesan S., Nguyen T., Pégot-Espagnet P., Pouilly N., Raftis F., Sallet, E., Schiex, T., Thomas, J., Vandecasteele, C., Varès, D., Vear, F., Vautrin, S., Crespi, M., Mangin, B., Burke, J.M., Salse, J., Muños, S., Vincourt, P., Rieseberg, L.H., Langlade, N.B., 2017. The sunflower genome provides insights into oil metabolism, flowering and Asterid evolution.Nature in press. doi:10.1038/nature22380

See also

Scientific contact

Nicolas Langlade
Laboratoire des Interactions Plantes-Microorganismes (Inra-CNRS)
Tél. : 05 61 28 57 78
Départements scientifiques SPE, BAP
Centre Inra Occitanie-Toulouse

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Inra service de presse
Tél. : 01 42 75 91 86

Toulouse Press contact

Anne-Sophie Lubrano-Lavadera
Tél. : 05 61 28 55 61