The domesticated sunflower, Helianthus annuus L., is a global oil crop that has promise for climate change adaptation, because it can maintain stable yields across a wide variety of environmental conditions, including drought1. Even greater resilience is achievable through the mining of resistance alleles from compatible wild sunflower relatives2,3, including numerous extremophile species4. Here we report a high-quality reference for the sunflower genome (3.6 gigabases), together with extensive transcriptomic data from vegetative and floral organs. The genome mostly consists of highly similar, related sequences5 and required single-molecule real-time sequencing technologies for successful assembly. Genome analyses enabled the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the Asterids, further establishing the existence of a whole-genome triplication at the base of the Asterids II clade6 and a sunflower-specific whole-genome duplication around 29 million years ago7. An integrative approach combining quantitative genetics, expression and diversity data permitted development of comprehensive gene networks for two major breeding traits, flowering time and oil metabolism, and revealed new candidate genes in these networks. We found that the genomic architecture of flowering time has been shaped by the most recent whole-genome duplication, which suggests that ancient paralogues can remain in the same regulatory networks for dozens of millions of years. This genome represents a cornerstone for future research programs aiming to exploit genetic diversity to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance and oil production, while also considering agricultural constraints and human nutritional needs8,9.
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Badouin, Hélène; Jérôme Gouzy; Christopher Grassa; Florent Murat; S. Evan Staton; Ludovic Cottret; Christine Lelandais-Brière; Gregory Owens; Sébastien Carrère; Baptiste Mayjonade; Ludovic Legrand; Navdeep Gill; Nolan Kane; John Bowers; Sariel Hubner; Arnaud Bellec; Aurélie Bérard; Hélène Bergès; Nicolas Blanchet; Marie-Claude Boniface; Dominique Brunel; Olivier Catrice; Nadia Chaidir; Clotilde Claudel; Cécile Donnadieu; Thomas Faraut; Ghislain Fievet; Nicolas Helmstetter; Matthew King; Steven Knapp; Zhao Lai; Marie-Christine Le Paslier; Yannick Lippi; Lolita Lorenzon; Jennifer Mandel; Gwenola Marage; Gwenaëlle Marchand; Elodie Marquand; Emmanuelle Bret-Mestries; Evan Morien; Savithri Nambeesan; Thuy Nguyen; Prune Pegot-Espagnet; Nicolas Pouilly; Frances Raftis; Erika Sallet; Thomas Schiex; Justine Thomas; Céline Vandecasteele; Didier Varès; Felicity Vear; Sonia Vautrin; Martin Crespi; Brigitte Mangin; John Burke; Jérôme Salse; Stéphane Muños; Patrick Vincourt; Loren Rieseberg; and Nicolas Langlade. 2017. "The Sunflower Genome Provides Insights into Oil Metabolism, Flowering and Asterid Evolution." Nature 546, (): 148-152. doi:10.1038/nature22380.