Genomics of Sunflower

Projet Tournesol

The Compositae is one of the largest and most economically important families of flowering plants and includes a diverse array of food crops, horticultural crops, medicinals, and noxious weeds (Dempewolf et al. 2008). Despite its size and economic importance, genomic characterization has lagged behind that of comparable groups such as the grass, legume, crucifer, and tomato families. In particular, the lack of a reference sequence for the Compositae impedes research and improvement efforts. We will dramatically enhance Compositae genomic resources by sequencing the genome of cultivated sunflower ( Helianthus annuus), the most important crop in the family. In addition to its global importance as an oil crop, sunflower has tremendous potential for cellulosic biomass production, both as a primary source and via the residue of oilseed production. Thus, the proposed large-scale sequencing effort will be accompanied by the development of genomic resources, genetic stocks, and knowledge for manipulating agronomically important traits in sunflower hybrid breeding programs.

The scientific objectives of the project are to :
 1) Extend the genetic map for sunflower;
 2) Construct a physical map of the sunflower genome based on fingerprinting and end-sequencing of BAC clones from deep-coverage libraries;
 3) Generate a reference sequence for sunflower using a hybrid strategy involving whole genome shotgun sequencing (40x depth) and sequencing of BAC pools (20x depth) with nextgeneration sequencing platforms;
 4) Determine the genetic basis of agriculturally important traits using an association mapping approach; and
 5) Develop a xylem EST database and determine the genetic basis of cellulosic biomass traits.

The project will create an unparalleled resource for sunflower and the Compositae and yield a wealth of data for functional and comparative genomic analyses and agricultural, biological, and environmental research. Candidate gene and SNP discovery will facilitate public and private crop improvement efforts, as well as the ongoing development of sunflower as a biofuel. With climate change, drought tolerant Compositae species are likely to become increasingly important as food and biofuel crops in Canada and elsewhere, as well as biological factories for the production of pharmaceuticals (Maloney 2000). Also because many of the most noxious weeds in Canada are Compositae species (e.g., thistles, napweeds, and ragweeds), a reference genome for the family will aid ongoing efforts to understand and control these invasive species. Finally, our results will allow us to test a new theory about the role of genomic redundancy in the establishment of chromosomal rearrangements and possibly solve a longstanding mystery in plant genome evolution.

Website :

Publications related to the project :

Partners :

Loren Rieseberg
Botany Department University of British Columbia
3529-6270 University Blvd Vancouver,
B.C. V6T 1Z4
Phone: 604-827-4540
Fax: 604-822-6089

Patrick Vincourt
Chemin de Borde Rouge
31326 Castanet Tolosan
Tel : 05 61 28 54 58
Mob : 06 73 69 23 72

Steven J. Knapp
Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics
Center for Applied Genetic Technologies
111 Riverbend Road
The University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602
Tel: (706) 542-4021
Fax (706) 583-8120