Science News
from research organizations

Barley genome sequenced

Research could lead to better beer, single malt Scotch whiskey

Date:
April 26, 2017
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
Looking for a better beer or single malt Scotch whiskey? A team of researchers may have you covered. They are among a group of 77 scientists worldwide who have sequenced the complete genome of barley, a key ingredient in beer and single malt Scotch.
Share:
FULL STORY

Barley is one of the world's most important cereal crops.
Credit: Close Lab, UC Riverside.

Looking for a better beer or single malt Scotch whiskey?

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside may have you covered. They are among a group of 77 scientists worldwide who have sequenced the complete genome of barley, a key ingredient in beer and single malt Scotch. The research, 10 years in the making, was just published in the journal Nature.

"This takes the level of completeness of the barley genome up a huge notch," said Timothy Close, a professor of genetics at UC Riverside. "It makes it much easier for researchers working with barley to be focused on attainable objectives, ranging from new variety development through breeding to mechanistic studies of genes."

The research will also aid scientists working with other "cereal crops," including rice, wheat, rye, maize, millet, sorghum, oats and even turfgrass, which like the other food crops, is in the grass family, Close said.

Barley has been used for more than 10,000 years as a staple food and for fermented beverages, and as animal feed.

It is found in breakfast cereals and all-purpose flour and helps bread rise. Malted barley gives beer color, body, protein to form a good head, and the natural sugars needed for fermentation. And single malt Scotch is made from only water and malted barley.

The report in Nature provides new insights into gene families that are key to the malting process. The barley genome sequence also enabled the identification of regions of the genome that have been vulnerable to genetic bottlenecking during domestication, knowledge that helps to guide breeders to optimize genetic diversity in their crop improvement efforts.

Ten years ago, the International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium, which is led by Nils Stein of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, set out to assemble a complete reference sequence of the barley genome.

This was a daunting task, as the barley genome is almost twice the size of the human genome and 80 percent of it is composed of highly repetitive sequences, which cannot be assigned accurately to specific positions in the genome without considerable extra effort.

Multiple novel strategies were used in this paper to circumvent this fundamental limitation. Major advances in sequencing technology, algorithmic design and computing made it possible. Still, this work kept teams around the world -- in Germany, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United State -- occupied for a decade. This work provides knowledge of more than 39,000 barley genes.

Alcoholic beverages have been made from malted barley since the Stone Age, and some even consider this to be a major reason why humankind adopted plant cultivation, at least in the Fertile Crescent, where barley was domesticated.

During malting, amylase proteins are produced by germinated seeds to decompose energy-rich starch that is stored in dry grains, yielding simple sugars. These sugars then are available for fermentation by yeast to produce alcohol. The genome sequence revealed much more variability than was expected in the genes that encode the amylase enzymes.

Barley is grown throughout the world, with Russia, Germany, France, Canada, and Spain being among the top producers. In the United States, barley is mainly grown in the northwest. Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota are the leading producers.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California - Riverside. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Martin Mascher, Heidrun Gundlach, Axel Himmelbach, Sebastian Beier, Sven O. Twardziok, Thomas Wicker, Volodymyr Radchuk, Christoph Dockter, Pete E. Hedley, Joanne Russell, Micha Bayer, Luke Ramsay, Hui Liu, Georg Haberer, Xiao-Qi Zhang, Qisen Zhang, Roberto A. Barrero, Lin Li, Stefan Taudien, Marco Groth, Marius Felder, Alex Hastie, Hana Šimková, Helena Staňková, Jan Vrána, Saki Chan, María Muñoz-Amatriaín, Rachid Ounit, Steve Wanamaker, Daniel Bolser, Christian Colmsee, Thomas Schmutzer, Lala Aliyeva-Schnorr, Stefano Grasso, Jaakko Tanskanen, Anna Chailyan, Dharanya Sampath, Darren Heavens, Leah Clissold, Sujie Cao, Brett Chapman, Fei Dai, Yong Han, Hua Li, Xuan Li, Chongyun Lin, John K. McCooke, Cong Tan, Penghao Wang, Songbo Wang, Shuya Yin, Gaofeng Zhou, Jesse A. Poland, Matthew I. Bellgard, Ljudmilla Borisjuk, Andreas Houben, Jaroslav Doležel, Sarah Ayling, Stefano Lonardi, Paul Kersey, Peter Langridge, Gary J. Muehlbauer, Matthew D. Clark, Mario Caccamo, Alan H. Schulman, Klaus F. X. Mayer, Matthias Platzer, Timothy J. Close, Uwe Scholz, Mats Hansson, Guoping Zhang, Ilka Braumann, Manuel Spannagl, Chengdao Li, Robbie Waugh, Nils Stein. A chromosome conformation capture ordered sequence of the barley genome. Nature, 2017; 544 (7651): 427 DOI: 10.1038/nature22043

Cite This Page:

University of California - Riverside. "Barley genome sequenced: Research could lead to better beer, single malt Scotch whiskey." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170426153821.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2017, April 26). Barley genome sequenced: Research could lead to better beer, single malt Scotch whiskey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170426153821.htm
University of California - Riverside. "Barley genome sequenced: Research could lead to better beer, single malt Scotch whiskey." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170426153821.htm (accessed May 27, 2017).

RELATED STORIES