Genome Digest

Meet the species whose DNA has recently been sequenced.

By | August 18, 2011


High time for pot plants

Species:  The marijuana plants Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indicaGenome size: Around 400 million base pairsInteresting fact:  The marijuana plant is most well known for the high produced by THC, its active ingredient, which binds to cannabinoid receptors in the body.  But Cannabis contains dozens of other active compounds, some of which are being studied as potential treatments for cancer and inflammation. Researchers at Medicinal Genomics hope that sequencing the entire genome will allow them to pinpoint therapeutic compounds while removing the psychoactive effects of THC.

Secret fungus unearthed

Fungus hyphae and swellings
Fungus hyphae and swellings

Species: Archaeorhizomyces finlayiGenome size: UnknownInteresting fact: The mysterious fungus, called Soil Clone Group 1 permeates the soil, but until now no one had isolated or sequenced it. Earlier this month, researchers sequenced a 3,600 base-pair sequence, which revealed that the species is part of an entirely new class of fungi, the Archaeorhizomycetes.

A. Rosling, et. al, “Archaeorhizomycetes: Unearthing an Ancient Class of Ubiquitous Soil Fungi,” Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1206958, 2011.

Conserving coral

Acropora digitifera
Acropora digitifera

Species: Branching coral, Acorpora digitiferaGenome size:  420 million base pairsInteresting fact: Coral reefs, which rely on narrow ranges in temperature and ocean acidity, have been hit especially hard by climate change. The new genome may explain why branching coral depend on a symbiotic algae species to make a key amino acid. Researchers hope that pinpointing genes that help the species survive warming oceans could aid conservation efforts.

C. shinzato, et. al, “Using the Acropofora digitifera genome to understand the coral responses to environmental change,” Nature,  doi:10.1038/nature10249, 2011.

Species: Staghorn coral, Acropora millepora

Acropora millepora
Acropora millepora

Genome size: UnknownInteresting fact: Earlier this month, researchers released a draft sequence of staghorn coral, a similar species found in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The coral is usually found in reefs surrounding islands and thrives in turbid water.

Cod immunity

Species: Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua

Atlantic cod
Atlantic cod

Genome size: 830 million base pairsInteresting fact: Atlantic cod, which live in the frigid waters of the deep Atlantic, seem to lack three components of the immune system seen in every other jawed vertebrate.  The cod has shed key genes in the adaptive immune system, which allows it to remember infection and fight pathogens.  The new genome could eventually help develop vaccines that aid cod farming, which has long been plagued by bacterial infections.

B. Star, et. al, “The genome sequence of Atlantic cod reveals a unique immune system,” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature10342,2011.


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