CSIRO to sequence legume genome

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 8th December 2010

Lupins – a valuable crop rotation legume, and a rich source of protein and dietary fibre – will be the subject of Australia’s first major plant genome sequencing project.

CSIRO researchers will collaborate with the Centre for Food and Genomic Medicine (CFGM) in Perth, WA, to sequence the genome of the narrow-leaf lupin. The three-year, $1.5 million project will enable researchers and breeders to accelerate lupin crop improvements such as drought tolerance, disease resistance and optimal flowering time.

Lupins, members of the legume family, are used as a winter rotation crop, which farmers can use to prevent diseases surviving from season to season in cereal crops such as wheat. They have the added benefit of fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Lupins are also a source of protein and dietary fibre, and CSIRO scientists have already identified genes in lupins which produce proteins that impact on the nutritional content of the grain.

Studies conducted by the CFGM have shown these proteins have important wide ranging benefits for humans and may provide cardiovascular health benefits in terms of increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood pressure. The proteins could potentially reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity by increasing a person’s sensitivity to insulin and creating the sensation of being ‘full’.

The research team will build upon established resources and employ powerful next-generation sequencing technologies and innovative bioinformatics techniques in their efforts to sequence the genome.

Responsibility for overseeing the research project was awarded to the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research-based CFGM by the Grains Research and Development Corporation following a competitive national tender process.

The CFGM team will interact with national and international collaborators in China, Europe, Japan and the USA with sequencing and bioinformatic expertise to help gain and analyse the sequence data. The majority of the project will be conducted at the new CSIRO/University of Western Australia joint Crop Genomics laboratory at Floreat, in Perth WA and will be led by Prof Karam Singh (CSIRO/UWA).

The project’s results will be published online for public access benefiting lupin researchers, lupin breeders and the broader community.