Quinoa is a grain that thrives in harsh environments, growing well on poor quality soils. This grain was once the staple "Mother Grain" in ancient Andean civilizations, but was marginalized when the Spanish arrived in South America. Now, an international team of researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) led by Prof. Mark Tester, have completed the first high-quality sequence of the Chenopodium quinoa genome, and they have begun identifying genes that could be manipulated to change the way the plant matures and produces food.
The project, which brought together 33 researchers from four continents, including 20 people from seven research groups at KAUST, used a combination of techniques to piece together full chromosomes of C. quinoa. The resulting genome is the highest available quinoa sequence to date, and is yielding insights into the plant's traits and growth mechanisms.
The sequencing project helped in the identification of the transcription factor likely to control the production of anti-nutritional triterpenoid saponins in quinoa seeds. The research team also found a mutation that appears to cause alternative splicing and a premature stop codon in sweet quinoa strains.
The results of their study are available as an open-access article in Nature. For more details, read the news release from KAUST.