Posted: August 25, 2020

Dr. Carlson and colleagues have published the first reference genome sequence for chestnut. The genome for Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) provides a platform for research into the genetic basis of adaptive traits in chestnut species, including chestnut blight-resistance.

Syntenic blocks shared by the chestnut and poplar genomes

Syntenic blocks shared by the chestnut and poplar genomes

The introduction of the chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) to North America in 1904 quickly led to the extirpation of American chestnut across its natural range. In breeding programs to restore the American chestnut species, blight-resistance genes from Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) are being transferred into American chestnut by back-cross breeding. To understand the genetic basis of blight resistance, we have sequenced the genome of a Chinese chestnut cultivar. The initial draft of the genome (v.1.1) and sequences of the three major blight resistance QTL were released to the public in January 2014 at the Hardwood Genomics Project website (https://www.hardwoodgenomics.org/organism/Castanea/mollissima).  More recently we developed an improved version of the Chinese chestnut genome with a chromosome-scale scaffolding of sequences to maps of the 12 chestnut linkage groups.  These new versions (v 3.2 and 4.2) will serve as the reference for genome-wide selection in advanced generations of backcross breeding programs and in basic research on genome structure and function in woody plants. Please visit our publication:

Staton, et al. 2020. A reference genome assembly and adaptive trait analysis of Castanea mollissima 'Vanuxem', a source of resistance to chestnut blight in restoration breeding. Tree Genetics and Genomes, 16:57 (doi.org/10.1007/s11295-020-01454-y)

Funds for this project were provided by the Forest Health Initiative (grant # 137RFP#2008-011), the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (grant # 2016-67013-24581) the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Federal Appropriations under Project PEN04532 (Accession number 1000326), the NSF (Award #1444573), and grants-in-aid from The American Chestnut Foundation.

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