Submitted to: Biotech Center News
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: July 31, 2006
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
Citation: Anderson, J.V. 2006. Development of genomic resources for euphorbiaceae. Biotech Center News. Summer 2006 issue: pp. 1-3. Technical Abstract: The 21st Century has heightened our awareness of the increased global demands on fossil fuel reserves, the increased CO2 emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, the need for improved integrated weed management strategies, and the threat of bioterrorism. The ability to manipulate plant growth and development has the potential to enhance crop biomass feed stocks for generating alternative biofuels, reducing competition by weeds, and reducing the toxic byproducts that can be used in bioterrorism. This is especially relevant for the genetically diverse Euphorbiaceae plant family that includes important agricultural species such as: cassava (Manihot esculenta), a daily food staple for over 600 million people and potential starch rich energy source; castor bean (Ricinus communis), an important oil crop and source of the potential bioterrorist product ricin; rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), an important source of rubber; and leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), a significant perennial weed of North American plains and prairies. Since a significant understanding of the conservation and diversity of genes between members of the Euphorbiaceae family is lacking, it is currently difficult to design treatments or breeding programs to manipulate genetic stocks of desirable species or develop methods to control the growth of undesirable species. Many of these problems are expected to be solved through development of sequence databases and genomic-based research strategies for species within this family. To develop a family-based approach for unlocking the genetic diversity within the Euphorbiaceae family, a Specific Cooperative Agreement between the USDA-ARS and the W.M. Keck Center at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign was formulated in 2003. The goal of the project was to identify unigenes within leafy spurge and cassava EST-databases which would provide resources for producing Euphorbiaceae-specific DNA microarrays and cross-species comparisons. The project identified 23,000 unigenes within cassava and leafy spurge that are being used to construct Euphorbiaceae-specific microarrays. This family-based genomics approach is expected to enhance our ability to identify genes involved in 1) biomass production, 2) food quality and vegetative reproduction 3) marker-assisted and genome-wide biology discovery, and 4) accelerating plant breeding in Euphorbiaceae crops such as cassava, castor bean, and rubber tree. These advances will be important if we expect to address the emerging economic, ecological, and geopolitical issues of the 21st Century.