Published on 30 October 2019
Petit pois et grand génome : quand la séquence assemblée éclaire l’évolution de l’espèce

An international consortium of scientists, some of whom are members of Université Paris-Saclay, have assembled for the first time the genome sequence of the green pea. This work provides new information on the genomic history of this leguminous plant.

In 1866, Pisum sativum L., better known as “green pea”, became the favourite subject of study of the founding father of genetics, Gregor Mendel. The monk and botanist from Silesia (part of the current Czech Republic) crossbred various varieties, in order to compare the evolution of green pea characteristics over several generations. His discoveries led to the establishment of the three fundamental principles of biological heredity known as Mendel's laws.

More than a hundred years later, a consortium of international researchers, notably from INRA and CEA, worked on the same green pea to determine its first genome sequence. The aim was to identify all the genes belonging to the “green pea” species.

The researchers organized all the DNA sequences of the species, which represented more than 4.5 Gigabases (more than 4.5 billion nucleic acids), meaning a genome larger than that of humans. They also carried out phylogenetic and palaeo-genomic studies using other species more or less similar to Pisum savitum L. They outlined the genomic history of the leguminous plant, identifying the main rearrangements undergone during its evolution. They demonstrated that the gender Pisum evolved hugely since its differentiation from other members of the Fabeae tribe.

A better agronomic approach can now be achieved thanks to the information provided by this study. Selecting features of interest (yield, resistance to disease and specific climatic conditions) will become easier through the understanding of the influence of genes on species' characteristics.

Jonathan Kreplak et al., A reference genome for pea provides insight into legume genome evolution. Nature Genetics, volume 51, pages 1411–1422 (2019).