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Jute fiber genomes could help improve production of natural fiber

From left, Xuehua Wan, Jennifer Saito, Shaobin Hou

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researchers based in the Advanced Studies in Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics (ASGPB) were part of a Bangladesh-led effort that sequenced and analyzed the genomes of two species of jute, a fiber crop primarily grown in India and Bangladesh. The project was initiated by the late Professor Maqsudul Alam of the Department of Microbiology, and garnered the support of Bangladesh’s prime minister and agriculture minister.

The College of Natural Sciences research team, which included ASGPB’s Jennifer Saito, Xuehua Wan and Shaobin Hou published the results in the journal Nature Plants on January 30.

A biodegradable alternative to synthetic materials

Jute fiber

Jute, known as the “golden fiber,” is the world’s second most important natural fiber after cotton, due to its eco-friendly nature, affordability and versatility. The demand for jute fiber is increasing worldwide as biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials are sought for a range of purposes.

The >400 Mbp genome sequences of both cultivated species, Corchorus olitorius and Corchorus capsularis, will be used in work to improve the plants’ traits, such as fiber quality, yield, disease resistance and salinity tolerance.

Gene expression analysis has provided insight into the molecular basis of fiber formation. Comparison of the genomes is helping identify the genes that control morphological and physiological differences between the two species.

Researchers in the Basic and Applied Research on Jute Project in the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute are functionally characterizing the genomes and working to develop new jute varieties that will also enhance productivity in the industry.

Source: A UH News story