Joint Genome Institute researching terpenes as biofuel precursors

August 20, 2018 |

In California, from the distinct smell of eucalyptus to the flavor of wine, terpenes are ubiquitous. A diverse group of plant-produced organic compounds, terpenes play key roles in plant growth, defense, and environmental interactions. Terpenes are also economically important because of their use in industrial materials, pharmaceutical products, and as biofuel precursors. Collectively, hundreds of terpene compounds have been characterized from eucalypts, a group of 900 tree species belonging to the Myrtaceae (myrtle) family and containing the closely-related genera Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus.

As part of a proposal by the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), the Joint Genome Institute worked on resequencing several eucalypt genomes to establish the feasibility of genome wide association studies for genetic traits that are desirable from a biofuels production perspective. By using genomic database alignment tools, researchers searched for TPS genes in C. citriodora. They then compared the list of putative genes from C. citriodora to known TPS gene sequences from Eucalyptus species and other plants. The locations of TPS genes and gene clusters were mapped against those of E. grandis to find differences in genome organization between the two species. The work was reported in the journal Heredity.

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