Avocado (Persea americana) is a tropical tree species that is a commercially important fruit crop worldwide due to its nutritional value. Avocados belong to the Magnoliidae clade, a basal lineage of the flowering plants. Because Avocados have a long vegetative period (approximately 6 to 8 years) directed crosses are complicated in Avocado breeding. Genome sequence information could thus be highly valuable to breeding programmes, to speed up the selection of cultivars and rootstocks with desirable traits.

The Avocado Genome Consortium was established in 2016 as an international collaborative initiative between researchers interested in avocado genomics, with an aim to sequence and annotate the Avocado genome.

The researchers involved are:

  • David Kuhn, USDA, Florida
  • Patricia Manosalva, UCR, California
  • Noëlani van den Berg, UP, South Africa
  • Sarah Mwangi, UP, South Africa
  • Antonio Javier Matas Arroyo, Departamento de Biología Vegetal, University of Malaga, Spain
  • Aureliano Bombarley Gomez, Virginia Tech Horticulture, USA
  • Randy Ploetz, University of Florida, USA
  • Alan Chambers, University of Florida, USA

The consortium aims to sequence a homozygous avocado and re-sequence two avocado rootstocks, (one from the UCR breeding programme and one from WTS) in order to improve on the quality of the draft genome which is already available. Sequencing and annotation of the Avocado genome is currently underway, and it is anticipated that this will provide important advances in research methodologies and opportunities to study the genetics underpinning complex traits such as disease tolerance and tolerance to abiotic stresses.

As part of the broader objectives of the Avocado Genome Consortium, transcriptomic data has also been generated. This data will be utilized to answer fundamental questions pertaining to the evolutionary biology, gene expression, physiological processes and molecular pathways in avocado. Transcriptomic data from an RNA-sequencing experiment involving avocado challenged with Phytophthora cinnamomi will also aid in the identification of avocado defense targets and discovery of pathogen effectors involved in host-pathogen interactions.

Knowledge of the avocado genome and related genetic diversity will provide important information and a molecular toolbox to facilitate the establishment of more effective breeding programmes, and further research into all aspects of avocado health and defense.

 

ARP Team Members

Sarah Mwangi: Genomics and transcriptomics of Persea americana (Avocado)