Scientists Complete Largest Sequenced Genome Yet

U.S. scientists have fully sequenced the largest
known genome — that of a tree. It’s called the loblolly pine and is found
throughout the Southeastern U.S. Like the tree itself, its genetic code is huge. Scientists
finally sequenced 16 billion genome fragments — making its genome about seven times bigger
than the human genome. (Via Genetics, YouTube / Tammy Sons) To put it into perspective, the loblolly pine
genome has about 22 billion base pairs; whereas, the human genome has only 3 billion. (Via
YouTube / TED-Ed) This is where things get a little complicated.
Because of the sheer number of the tree’s genes, it would have taken years to sequence
its DNA using technology for sequencing the human genome. But as NBC reports, for the first time the
researchers were able to use a process in which computers sort all the “puzzle pieces”
and eliminate duplicates — saving the researchers a lot of time. The successful sequencing of the tree will
be helpful in understanding its longevity. As Tech Times reports, the loblolly pine is
the “most commercially important” tree in the U.S. because of its use as a source for
lumber and paper products. The researchers also say the genome mapping
will allow scientists to understand disease resistance in southern pines, which are prey
to many diseases such as fusiform rust. (Via American Forest and Paper) The director for the organization that funded
the study notes the research will further the forestry industry. He adds, “[The] loblolly
pine will take on even greater importance as we look for new sources of biomass to drive
our nation’s bio-economy, and ways to increase carbon sequestration and mitigate climate
change.” (Via University of California, Davis) The team says its next project will be even
bigger — sequencing the genome of the sugar pine, which has more than double the number
of base pairs as the loblolly pine.