The Cork Oak whole genome sequence has been sequenced by a Portuguese team

May 25, 2018
The results of the first version of the genome sequence of Quercus suber, the cork oak, were published this week. Although not in its final version, this is the most complete genomic information on this tree available for the scientific community.

Genosuber, the cork oak genome sequencing project, was promoted by five Portuguese institutions, Biocant, CEBAL, iBET, INIAV e ITQB NOVA with funding from InAlentejo. Several private institutions also financed the initiative such as Corticeira Amorim, Cork Supply, and Caixa de Crédito Agrícola. "Genosuber - Sequencing of the cork oak genome (Quercus suber)" has already won the Vida Rural Alqueva prize (16 April 2015) and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Award for Agricultural Credit, in the category "High Potential Projects Promoted by Associate of Agricultural Credit "(2 Dec. 2015). 

Although larger than the rice genome, the cork oak genome is only 1/3 of the size of the human genome. Researchers have identified the sequence of more than 900 million base pairs of DNA from a selected tree (cork tree HL8). The sequenced tree has been growing since the 19th century in the Herdade dos Leitões and is owned by Eng. João FP Lopes who, from the first day, was an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative, facilitating resources and access to the biological material. 

According to Conceição Egas, researcher at Biocant and Centro de Neurociências e Biologia Celular and one of the members of this project, “the release of this genomic resource represents an essential step towards understanding the biology of the cork oak tree and a basis to new research projects to improve tree features such as resistance to stress or cork production”. 

Despite the release of the cork oak genome sequence, the study is ongoing. A final version of the genome is scheduled for publication to the end of the year. The team is studying the biological processes involved in the formation of cork and managing a population of F1 trees, the only population of Q. suber with a controlled pedigree. 

Original paper 

Scientific Data 5, Article number: 180069 (2018) doi:10.1038/sdata.2018.69 

The draft genome sequence of cork oak 

António Marcos Ramos, Ana Usié, Pedro Barbosa, Pedro M. Barros, Tiago Capote, Inês Chaves, Fernanda Simões, Isabel Abreu, Isabel Carrasquinho, Carlos Faro, Joana B. Guimarães, Diogo Mendonça, Filomena Nóbrega, Leandra Rodrigues, Nelson J. M. Saibo, Maria Carolina Varela, Conceição Egas, José Matos, Célia M. Miguel, M. Margarida Oliveira, Cândido P. Ricardo & Sónia Gonçalves