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TGAC releases new genetic data to combat ash dieback epidemic

TGAC releases new genetic data to combat ash dieback epidemic  - 8 July 2014. Copyright: Allan Downie, JIC
News from: TGAC

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) has released new genetic data that will help understand the spread of the ash dieback epidemic, across Europe and the UK.

As part of the NORNEX consortium, TGAC has sequenced 20 genomes of the fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) responsible for the spread of the ash dieback epidemic that threatens our third most common broadleaf tree (after oak and birch). The data is available for analysis on the crowdsourcing site OpenAshDieBack.

Colony of the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus growing. Copyright: Prof Allan Downie
Colony of the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus growing. Copyright: Prof Allan Downie (JIC)

These 20 samples come from across the UK (supplied by The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera)); our analysis of the differences between them will help us to understand the characteristics associated with the spread of this devastating disease across Europe and the UK. TGAC's data from these samples will be combined with genomes sequenced from across Europe at The University of Edinburgh, along with further genomes from Japan sequenced at TGAC in collaboration with The Sainsbury Laboratory.

TGAC first sequenced the genome of this ash dieback fungus in 2012 using a sample from Norfolk isolated by scientists at the John Innes Centre. The epidemic has spread across Europe after first being identified in Poland, in 1992. Infection by the fungus has now been detected across many sites in the UK. The isolation and analysis of the fungi has been driven by a funding initiative from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help tackle this major tree disease.

Fungal fruiting body growing on an ash petiole. Copyright: Prof Allan Downie (JIC)
Fungal fruiting body growing on an ash petiole. Copyright: Prof Allan Downie (JIC)

Matt Clark,  Plant and Microbial Genomics Group Leader, said: "To understand how the Ash Dieback disease will affect the UK, and how we can combat it, we have to understand the pathogen varieties present in the UK. These samples give us important insights into how the fungus could infect different varieties of Ash trees, and respond to treatments such as fungicides."

Mark McMullan, Population Genomicist in the Plant and Microbial Genomics team at TGAC, said: "Sequencing the genome of the pathogen for the first time back in 2012 was an important first step in the process of understanding its evolution in the context of other species of fungi. However, important new information such as the identification of genes associated with the spread of infection can be obtained by understanding the genetic variation between different isolates."

ENDS

About TGAC

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) is a research institute focused on the development of genomics and computational biology. TGAC is based within the Norwich Research Park and receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – £9.2M in 2012-2013 – as well as support from other research funders. TGAC is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from BBSRC.

TGAC offers state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative Bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a Training programme through courses and workshops, and an Outreach programme targeting schools, teachers and the general public through dialogue and science communication activities. www.tgac.ac.uk

About the research collaboration Nornex

The Nornex consortium (named for the three Norns who tend the ash tree of life Yggdrasil in Norse mythology) brings together tree health and forestry specialists with scientists working with state-of-the-art genetic sequencing, biological data and imaging technologies to investigate the molecular and cellular basis of interactions between the fungus and ash trees.

For detailed information see the Q&A about the project by visiting oadb.tsl.ac.uk/?p=371.

The Nornex partners are The Genome Analysis Centre, Food and Environment Research Agency, John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Forest Research, Edinburgh Genomics, University of Exeter, University of York , East Malling Research, Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, University of Copenhagen.

The project partners will also collaborate with NERC-funded researchers at Queen Mary College, University of London.

About Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera)

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) is an Executive Agency of the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Its remit is to provide robust evidence, rigorous analysis and expert professional advice to government, international organisations and the private sector, in order to support and develop a sustainable and secure food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.

About The Sainsbury Laboratory

The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) is a world-leading research centre dedicated to making fundamental discoveries about plants and how they interact with microbes. TSL is evolving its scientific mission so that it not only provides fundamental biological insights into plant-pathogen interactions, but also delivers novel, genomics-based, solutions which will significantly reduce losses from major diseases of food crops, especially in developing countries. TSL is based on the Norwich Research Park and is closely linked to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, University of East Anglia, BBSRC and the John Innes Centre.  www.tsl.ac.uk

About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre, visit www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park, visit  www.nrp.org.uk. The JIC's mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy. JIC is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

External contact

Hayley London, Marketing & Communications Officer, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC)


Tel: +44 (0)1603 450107