Global
Agriculture

Did you know apples have twice as many
genes as humans?

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The Apple Genome Project [1] and other studies [2] allowed an international group of scientists to successfully sequence the apple genome and use the information to compare hundreds of different apple varieties. They discovered that apples have a genome twice as large as humans (approximately 57,000 genes) and that today’s apples all originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where wild apples still flourish.

It is thought that silk road traders and their animals disseminated wild apples from Kazakhstan, helping its cultivation spread west to Europe and east to China. Cross-pollination with wild species and centuries of selecting desired characteristics delivered the wealth of modern apple varieties which we enjoy eating today.

Plant breeding is key in making today’s apples nutritious, tasty and popular. The apple genome sequence provides a great additional resource that helps researchers make apple breeding faster and more accurate. This type of scientific information helps researchers understand the basis of important crop characteristics such as, texture, disease resistance, adaptation to specific geographic or climatic conditions, as well as accommodating consumer needs.  Deciphering plant genomes in this way allows scientists to better understand and appreciate the importance of conserving genetic diversity.

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To find out more about the advancements in the field of genome sequencing and plant breeding, send an email to Younousse.Saidi@basf.com.

[1] Velasco, R., Zharkikh, A., Affourtit, J. et al. The genome of the domesticated apple (Malus × domestica Borkh.). Nat Genet 42, 833–839 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.654

[2] Duan, N., Bai, Y., Sun, H. et al. Genome re-sequencing reveals the history of apple and supports a two-stage model for fruit enlargement. Nat Commun 8, 249 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017- 00336-7