Researchers sequence the genome of a group of ferns and gain clues to the origin of ferns’ large genomes

HudsonAlpha researchers were part of a team that sequenced the first full-length genome of the Ceratopteris richardii fern species. 

Ferns have large genomes, containing one of the highest chromosome counts of any plant. A team of researchers, including several from the HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center, set out to sequence the Ceratopteris richardii fern genome to understand how and why ferns retain so much more DNA than other plants. 

The Ceratopteris genome took the research team representing 28 institutions worldwide over eight years to sequence and assemble. The team was surprised to find that Ceratopteris had accumulated millions of jumping genes, likely inherited from other organisms. Many of the genes in Ceratopteris code for defense-related products. One such product is a pore-forming toxin often found in bacteria. How the fern uses this toxin is currently unknown, but it is extremely fascinating to researchers that the fern genome contains genes borrowed from other plants and organisms.  

Further studies are required to hone in on the function of the millions of genes in Ceratopteris. Still, researchers involved in the study suggest downstream practical applications range from the development of novel biopesticides to innovative new conservation strategies.

The project began as a Joint Genome Institute Community Science Program (CSP) project called the Open Green Genomes Initiative. The study was also funded in part by the National Science Foundation (grants PRFB IOS-1907220, MCB-1856143, and DEB-1911459), the Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 32001456 and 31771687), China Agriculture Research System (grant CARS-05), Horticulture Innovation Australia (grants LP18000 and VG17003), the Ambrose Monell Foundation, the Key R&D Program of Zhejiang Province (2021C02009) and Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (grant LY21C130007).

Read the full story from the Florida Museum of Natural History.