Hainan scientists complete genome sequencing for the humble coconut

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences Hainan have sequenced and assembled the genome of the humble coconut, reports Xinhua last Thursday.

The Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) (中国热带农业科学院) is an agricultural university located in Haikou City, Hainan Province. Currently it has more than 3,000 staff members, 2,000 of which are involved in research work.

What is a genome?

A Genome is the totality of genetic material carried by an organism.

For example, the human genome is analogous to the instructions stored in a cookbook. Just as a cookbook gives the instructions needed to make a range of meals including a holiday feast or a summer picnic, the human genome contains all the instructions needed to make the full range of human cell types including muscle cells or neurons.

  • The book (genome) would contain 23 chapters (chromosomes);
  • Each chapter contains 48 to 250 million letters (A,C,G,T) without spaces;
  • Hence, the book contains over 3.2 billion letters total;
  • The book contains approximately 20,000 different recipes (genes), which together make up less than 2% of the letters in the book.
  • The book fits into a cell nucleus the size of a pinpoint;
  • Most cells contain two copies of the book (all 23 chapters). Gametes (egg and sperm cells) contain only one copy, and mature red blood cells (which become enucleated during development) lack a genome.

According to Yang Yaodong, a researcher with the academy, they found 282 unique genome families in the coconut. As a result of completing the genome sequencing scientists will be able to breed more high-yield, drought-enduring, and disease-resistant species, with a shorter breeding cycle. 

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