The fame of Bangladesh for its golden fiber “Jute” is now seemed to be far away. To bring back the golden era ofjute, once considered as one of the driving forces of economic growth, scientist from Bangladesh entered the world of genome research. For the first time in the world, the “Genome Sequence” of jute has been unveiled by the joint effort of the researchers from the Dhaka University, IT Firm “Data Soft” and Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRJ). On 16 June 2010, the Honorable Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Sheik Hasina announced at the National Parliament, the success of Bangladeshi Scientists to the nation and rest of the world. The research team was led by Professor Maqsudul Alam, from University of Hawaii, who also successfully led the genome discovery of Papaya in USA and Rubber in Malaysia.
Soon after the discovery of the Jute genome sequence researchers started dreaming for high yielding, and quality jute. With an aim to meet up this need and to deliver the benefit of this success directly to the farmer’s hand, a national project “Basic and Applied Research on Jute (BARJ)” at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture on November, 2010. One of the aims of this project is to deliver the disease resistant and environmental stress tolerant and high yielding jute varieties to the farmers. Simultaneously, this project also emphasizes to create a national infrastructure for genome research with global partnership.
The “stem-rot fungus” of jute Macrophomina phaseolina also well-known as most destructive fungal pathogen to more than 500 plant species including soybean, sunflower, maize, rice, cotton etc. According to the statistics of 2002, in USA, this fungus has caused damage worth approximately Tk. 1500 crore annually to soybean alone. The overall impact of this fungus on global agricultural economy is devastating.
BARJ researchers for the first time in the world have decoded the genome of this destructive fungus. They have also identified the proteins and their networks that the fungus uses to attack and kill the plant. This fundamental knowledge will help to defend and fight against this fungus and to promote the development of resistant varieties of jute as well as other crop species.
2. What is Genuine?
Genuine is the architecture of life that controls the activities and behavior over an organism. The central dogma of life and its expression is seen all over the genome. Four types of chemical compounds are required to represent the whole genome- “A” (Adenine), “T” (Thiamine), “G” (Guanine) and “C” (Cytosine). Genome comprises and consists of genes which regulate all biological behavior of living organisms. Therefore, decoding a genome means to discover how these 4 letters are arranged in this architecture. For example, human genome comprises of 3 billion letters of A, T, G and C. Interestingly, this architecture works similarly for all species from simple virus to multicellular organisms, they differ only in the relative positions of these 4 letters.
Genome research reveals different genes in a genome, identifies how they function and find out the way how this knowledge can be employed to benefit mankind. By using the knowledge gained from the genome research it is possible to: change the characteristics of a living organism by making slight changes to its genome sequence; add characteristics of one organism to another; liberate one organism from adverse effects of other organisms or to make an organism disease resistant and thereby making its life safer. Thus, it is possible to develop high yielding, disease and stress tolerant crop varieties.
3. Stem rot of jute and the causal fungus Macrophomina phaseolina
Depending on the varieties, the production of jute could be reduced 30-70% or even 100% if the crop is attacked at the seedling stage by stem rot pathogen. BJRI has a snow white fiber line that could be used directly to make jute products without bleaching. As a result, this reduces production cost and at the same time safe environment. However, the line is highly susceptible to stem rot disease and was not used for commercial cultivation.
It is imperative to know at outset the kind of armaments that may be used by the enemy in a battle. With these armaments, the fungus infects different crops of various species in different parts of the world. The process of disease development in the host plant is shown in Figure-i. The most effective way of knowing the armaments of the fungus and the use thereof is by way of revealing its genome sequences and knowing the functions of its genes. The functional genomics will tell us how we can resist it and BARJ scientists have successfully found way to resolve the issue.
4. Behind the success story
The life style and mode of pathogenicity were thoroughly analyzed before decoding the genome of the destructive fungal pathogen. Finally the decoding has successfully done with the combined effort of biologists, information technologists and bioinformaticians. The important genes obtained from the genome by in silico analysis were validated in the research laboratories. All the predicted genes of the genome were presented through Gbrowse. The Gbrowse is open to all across the globe.
What will Bangladesh gain from this genuine information? What advantages will it bring for the hard working people of Bangladesh’? What will they gain? BARJ researchers are working on the jute stem-rot disease to provide a solution for the benefit of the farmers of Bangladesh. BARJ researchers now have the knowledge of the strength, capacity and weakness of the fungus. Now it is possible to develop disease resistant jute variety.
Bangladesh has already submitted 3 (three) Provisional Patent Applications to obtain the patent right on the information gained from the fungal genome sequence. Moreover, 2 (two) Patent Applications were also submitted to obtain patent right for Jute genome sequence.
Bangladeshi scientists used to collect all information on genorne from the database of the developed countries. But now, the scientists of this country are playing a vital role in enriching that database which is a matter of great pride for the nation as a whole. Despite the limited resources, a national research project of international standard has been carried by the full support of Government.
6. Infrastructure of Basic & Applied Research on Jute (BARJ) Project
As part of world-class infrastructure, modem IT facilities, bioinformatics and molecular biology laboratory have already been set up high-end computing edge. High performances servers includes 40 (forty) Core Processor and 2 (two) high speed server of I Terabyte Memory, 168 and 576 Gigabyte memory, more than 50 Terabyte hard disk storage capacity and high speed computer network.
7. Related links
A. Website of Basic and applied Research on Jute Project: www.jutegenome.org
B. Gbrowse of the genome of Macrophominaphaseolina: www.jutegenome.org/mpbrowse
C. Article published in Peer Reviewed journal BMC Genomics: www.biomedcentral.com/bmcgenomics