Researchers at the University of California, Davis have successfully sequenced the genome of the "loblolly pine," the largest genome ever.
Researchers working on the "Pinus taeda," the loblolly pine's scientific name, also found the tree's genetic code. The team discovered that the tree's genetic code is seven times larger than a human's, and that it is the largest and most complete conifer genome ever sequenced.
The sequencing of the loblolly pine's genome was accomplished by using a faster and more efficient analytical process, which included advanced computer technology.
The genome sequence will likely help scientists breed improved varieties of the pine. It will also help them better understand the diversity and evolution of plants.
The tree is commonly used for building lumber and paper, and is also the main source of pulpwood and saw timber for the country's forest products industry.
"It's a huge genome," said David Neale of the UC Davis who led the research. "But the challenge isn't just collecting all the sequence data. The problem is assembling that sequence into order."
The loblolly pine is the most commercially important tree species in the U.S. and is one of several pines native to the southeastern U.S. It can be found from central Texas to Florida, and northward to Delaware and southern New Jersey.
Scientists used a new method that speeds up genome assembly by compressing the raw sequence data 100-fold in order to handle the large size of the loblolly pine genome.
The research was published in two papers in the March 2014 issue of Genetics, and in one paper in the open access journal, Genome Biology.