Scientists at Plant & Food Research, in collaboration with the University of Otago, the University of Sydney, Phase Genomics and AgResearch, have sequenced the genome of a mānuka variety called ‘Crimson Glory.’ This is the first genome sequence for a New Zealand native plant species.
A large proportion of the mānuka genome was found to contain bacterial and fungal sequences, indicating the presence of a microbiome.
A post on the Plant & Food Research website explains that mānuka (Leptosperumum scoparium) is a widespread indigenous New Zealand shrub and is a treasured species (taonga) for Māori.
Mānuka belongs to the Myrtaceae family, along with other culturally and economically important plants such as feijoa and pōhutukawa.
Honey made from mānuka nectar is a commercially valuable product. Honey has antibacterial properties due to methylglyoxal (MGO), which is formed from the nectar-derived sugar dihydroxyacetone (DHA).
The amount of DHA varies greatly among individual and regional populations. Selection and breeding for mānuka now focus on the nectar DHA trait. Genomic resources could aid breeders and enable researchers to understand key traits like DHA accumulation but, until now, there has been a lack of genomic resources for mānuka.
The mānuka genome assembly, predicted genes and proteins were deposited in a New Zealand-based repository called ‘Genomics Aotearoa’ (www.genomics-aotearoa.co.nz). This will ensure that there is controlled access to genome data for taonga species.
The data may only be used for positive impacts on Maori social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being.
Thrimawithana AH, Jones D, Hilario E, Grierson E, Ngo HM, Liachko I, Sullivan S, Bilton TPA, Jacobs JME, Bicknell R, David C, Deng C, Nieuwenhuizen N, Lopez-Girona E, Tobias PA, Morgan E, Perry NB, Lewis DH, Crowhurst R, Davies KM, Chagné D, Schwinn KE 2019. A whole genome assembly of Leptospermum scoparium (Myrtaceae) for manuka research. New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science https://doi.org/10.1080/01140671.2019.1657911