French researchers unlock banana genome
Two French research institutes have sequenced the genetic code of banana ancestor Musa Acuminata, which is a component of every edible variety of the fruit including plantains.
CIRAD and CEA-Genoscope collaborated on the project with funding from France's National Research Agency (ARN), completing the work in just two years.
A CIRAD release said the study, done within the framework of the Global Musa Genomics Consortium, was a "huge step towards understanding the genetics of and improving banana varieties".
"Bananas are vitally important for the food and economic security of more than 400 million people in southern countries, but are under constant pressure from a range of parasites," the release said.
"That pressure is particularly high in plantations producing the "expor" bananas we find in our supermarkets. It is therefore crucial to develop new, more resistant varieties, although this is a complex operation given the very low fertility of cultivated banana varieties."
The group highlighted the sequencing of the banana's 36,000 genes is the first work of its kind for the plant's botanical class, monocotyledons.
"As such, it is a highly valuable reference for use in studying genome evolution. For instance, researchers have been able to establish that banana has seen three episodes of complete genome duplication, independent of those seen in grasses.
"While most of the genes resulting from such events are generally lost, some persist and lead to the emergence of new biological functions."
Detailed results can be found in the report published in scientific journal Nature.