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Title: Using the Model Perennial Grass Brachypodium sylvaticum to Engineer Resistance to Multiple Abiotic Stresses

We are using the perennial model grass Brachypodium sylvaticum to identify combinations of transgenes that enhance tolerance to multiple, simultaneous abiotic stresses. The most successful transgene combinations will ultimately be used to create improved switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) cultivars. To further develop B. sylvaticum as a perennial model grass, and facilitate our planned transcriptional profiling, we are sequencing and annotating the genome. We have generated ~40x genome coverage using PacBio sequencing of the largest possible size selected libraries (18, 22, 25 kb). Our initial assembly using only long-read sequence contained 320 Mb of sequence with an N50 contig length of 315 kb and an N95 contig length of 40 kb. This assembly consists of 2,430 contigs, the largest of which was 1.6 Mb. The estimated genome size based on c-values is 340 Mb indicating that about 20 Mb of presumably repetitive DNA remains yet unassembled. Significantly, this assembly is far superior to an assembly created from paired-end short-read sequence, ~100x genome coverage. The short-read-only assembly contained only 226 Mb of sequence in 19k contigs. To aid the assembly of the scaffolds into chromosome-scale assemblies we produced an F2 mapping population and have genotyped 480 individuals using a genotype by sequencemore » approach. One of the reasons for using B. sylvaticum as a model system is to determine if the transgenes adversely affect perenniality and winter hardiness. Toward this goal, we examined the freezing tolerance of wild type B. sylvaticum lines to determine the optimal conditions for testing the freezing tolerance of the transgenics. A survey of seven accessions noted significant natural variation in freezing tolerance. Seedling or adult Ain-1 plants, the line used for transformation, survived an 8 hour challenge down to -6 oC and 50% survived a challenge down to -9 oC. Thus, we will be able to easily determine if the transgenes compromise freezing tolerance. In the effort to develop biotechnological tools for perennial grass improvement, we have completed the transformation of B. sylvaticum with constructs containing 20 genes shown to be associated with enhanced abiotic stress tolerance in monocots. In addition, we have transformed plants with constructs containing a combination of genes (i.e. SARK::IPT- Ubi::HSR1::Ubi::NHX1) in order to simultaneously overexpress genes associated with drought + heat tolerance + salt tolerance. We generated single copy insert T1 lines for all constructs and the generation and bulking of homozygous T2 lines is well underway. In addition to our B. sylvaticum transgenics, we transformed B. distachyon with many of the same genes. Some of the transgenic B. distachyon plants subjected to a combined stress of both drought and salinity were able to produced higher yields than wild type plants. Our results indicate a great potential for the development of grasses with improved performance and yield in water-limited areas.« less
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Research Org:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Genomics Division
Country of Publication:
United States