Switchgrass Sequencing Provides Insight into Genome Structure and Organization

The Science

Perennial switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is capable of producing high biomass yields with low inputs on marginal lands, making it one of the most promising candidate bioenergy feedstocks. Breeding programs are underway to enhance and improve switchgrass as a viable agricultural crop, but these efforts are hampered by the limited genetic and genomic information currently available. The switchgrass genome is now being sequenced, but its highly complex structure makes assembly difficult. Researchers at the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) report on the construction, sequencing, and analysis of two “Bacterial Artificial Chromosome” (BAC) libraries from switchgrass. These libraries contain relatively large DNA segments and represent essentially a random sampling of the genome, allowing the researchers to analyze structure and function at a genome-wide scale. Comparisons with sequences from other bioenergy-relevant grasses reveal that switchgrass is closely related to sorghum, indicating that the fully sequenced sorghum genome would serve as a good reference for assembling switchgrass gene space. The resources generated here will have utility for a number of applications, including identification of switchgrass gene functions relevant to bioenergy production.

BER Program Manager

Kari Perez

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Sharma, M. K., R. Sharma, P. Cao, J. Jenkins, L. E. Bartley, M. Qualls, J. Grimwood, J. Schmutz, D. Rokhsar, and P. C. Ronald. 2012. “A Genome-Wide Survey of Switchgrass Genome Structure and Organization,” PLoS ONE 7(4), e33892. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0033892.