Study identifies genetic markers for predicting fatty acid composition of sunflower oil

Researchers from Skoltech collaborated with the University of Southern California and carried out a genetic analysis of a Russian sunflower collection. They found genetic markers that facilitate the fatty acid composition of sunflower oil to predicted. The results have been published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower Oil. Image Credit: Xan/Shutterstock.com

In the past decade, genomic selection has been a widely discussed topic as it helps create novel crop varieties faster. Employing extensive genotyping and DNA sequencing, it is possible to obtain the genetic profiles of crops. Upon comparison to field data, these profiles help determine the genetic markers for traits of benefit to farming. The profiles foretell the value and property of a crop depending on just its genetic profile.

Our work is the first large-scale study of the Russian sunflower genetic collection and one of the first attempts to create new varieties using genomic selection. Predicting what a plant will be like before actually planting it—an idea that seemed utterly unrealistic until recently—has become commonplace in many countries thanks to technological advances.”

Alina Chernova, PhD, Study Lead Author, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology

Classical breeding can hardly cope with the challenges posed by global climate change, growing human needs, and evolving food quality requirements. To get a head start, we should turn to genetics,” added Chernova.

The study is a joint venture and is headed by Skoltech professor Philipp Khaitovich along with scientists from Skoltech, the University of Southern California, Vavilov All-Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources, and Pustovoit All-Russian Research Institute of Oil Crops, along with breeders from Agroplasma, a seed-producing company.

The researchers investigated species from two main Russian sunflower gene banks and the collection from Agroplasma. The genetic analysis covered 601 lines of cultivated sunflower to verify genetic diversity. They compared it to the global collection and matched the results of chemical tests of oil from these lines. The bioinformatic analysis exposed genetic markers that can aid in controlling the fatty acid content of the oil.

The reason we chose the sunflower is that it is a key source of vegetable fats, and Russia is the world’s leading supplier of sunflower oil. You can vary the oil’s fatty acid composition— which was the focus of our research—to obtain oils with different properties suitable for roasting, dressings, or industrial uses.”

Rim Gubaev, Study Co-Author and PhD Student, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology

Thanks to this project, we have gained valuable insights and built a team of like-minded people keen on helping breeders to introduce genetics in their work. We have founded Oil Gene—it’s a startup that will focus on practical tasks and provide genomic selection services,” concluded Gubaev.

Source:
Journal reference:

Chernova, A. I., et al. (2021) Genotyping and lipid profiling of 601 cultivated sunflower lines reveals novel genetic determinants of oil fatty acid content. BMC Genomics. doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07768-y.

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