A reference genome for Nicotiana tabacum enables map-based cloning of homeologous loci implicated in nitrogen utilization efficiency


Background Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is an important plant model system that has played a key role in the early development of molecular plant biology. The tobacco genome is large and its characterisation challenging because it is an allotetraploid, likely arising from hybridisation between diploid N. sylvestris and N. tomentosiformis ancestors. A draft assembly was recently published for N. tabacum, but because of the aforementioned genome complexities it was of limited utility due to a high level of fragmentation.

Results Here we report an improved tobacco genome assembly, which, aided by the application of optical mapping, achieves an N50 size of 2.17 Mb and enables anchoring of 64% of the genome to pseudomolecules; a significant increase from the previous value of 19%. We use this assembly to identify two homeologous genes that explain the differentiation of the burley tobacco market class, with potential for greater understanding of Nitrogen Utilization Efficiency and Nitrogen Use Efficiency in plants; an important trait for future sustainability of agricultural production.

Conclusions Development of an improved genome assembly for N. tabacum enables what we believe to be the first successful map-based gene discovery for the species, and demonstrates the value of an improved assembly for future research in this model and commercially-important species.




BMC Genomics. 2017 Jun 19;18(1):448