Huge DNA Code of the Christmas Tree Being Revealed

As Christmas approaches, it appears the conifer's role as a genetic Grinch may be ending.

As Christmas approaches, it appears the conifer's role as a genetic Grinch may be ending.

Associated Press + More

Neale figures it will take his team until 2016 to complete genomes of the loblolly, Douglas-fir and sugar pine. The project is financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mackay's group recently released its early results on DNA taken from a single white spruce.

As for the Swedish project on Norway spruce, Ingvarsson said its results will be made public early next year. The 2 million DNA pieces have captured most of the estimated 35,000 to 40,000 genes in the tree, even if researchers don't know just where those genes go in the overall genome sequence, he said.

People have about 23,000 genes, not much different from a conifer. The tree's genome so much bigger because it also contains an abundance of non-gene DNA with no obvious function, Ingvarsson said.

He said his chief reason for tackling conifer genomes was to fill a conspicuous vacancy in the list of sequenced plants.

"It was like the one missing piece," he said. "We just need this final piece to say something about how all the plant kingdom has evolved over the last billion years or so."

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Online:

Canadian project: http://bit.ly/UQdTPd

U.S. project: http://pinegenome.org/pinerefseq/

Swedish project: http://www.congenie.org/

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Malcolm Ritter can be followed at http://twitter.com/malcolmritter

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