University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa researchers based in the ASGPB (Advanced Studies in Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics), in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS), were part of a Bangladesh-led effort that sequenced and analyzed the genomes of two species of jute, a fiber crop primarily grown in India and Bangladesh. The project was initiated by the late Prof. Maqsudul Alam of the Department of Microbiology (CNS), and garnered the support of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. The research team, which included Drs. Jennifer Saito, Xuehua Wan, and Shaobin Hou (ASGPB), published the results on January 30 in the journal Nature Plants.

Jute, known as the “Golden Fiber”, is the world’s second most important natural fiber after cotton, due to its eco-friendly nature, affordability, and versatility. The demand for jute fiber is increasing worldwide as biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials are sought for a range of purposes.

The >400 Mbp genome sequences of both cultivated species, Corchorus olitorius and Corchorus capsularis, will be used in work to improve the plants’ traits, such as fiber quality, yield, disease resistance, and salinity tolerance. Gene expression analysis has provided insight into the molecular basis of fiber formation. Comparison of the genomes is helping identify the genes that control morphological and physiological differences between the two species. Researchers in the Basic & Applied Research on Jute Project (BARJ) in the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) are functionally characterizing the genomes, and working to develop new jute varieties that will also enhance productivity in the industry.

View the publication at
http://www.nature.com/articles/nplants2016223

Citation
Islam, M.S. et al. (2017) Comparative genomics of two jute species and insight into fibre biogenesis. Nature Plants 3:16223

Information about the Advanced Studies in Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics
http://www.hawaii.edu/microbiology/asgpb/

Information about the Basic & Applied Research on Jute Project
http://www.jutegenome.org/