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December 29, 2020 Tuesday 04:47:01 PM IST

Mistletoe under spotlight of major DNA study

Edinburgh scientists are set to be the first to sequence the plant’s genome which is more than forty times the size of the human genome. The mistletoe genome will contribute to the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to sequence the genomes of over 60,000 British and Irish species within the next 10 years.   The research is pioneering the use of ground-breaking gene sequencing technology, that could also be used to better understand diseases and cancers in humans and animals.

Researchers at the University’s Edinburgh Genomics facility will be one of the first in Europe to use the PacBio Sequel IIe System, which is designed to read long fragments of DNA from virtually any species, with extremely high accuracy. The system produces eight-times more data than earlier sequencers, making sequencing complex genomes more affordable. Experts will use the technology to rapidly decode the mistletoe’s entire DNA.

The results could reveal how mistletoe has evolved to become a parasite – in order to survive it attaches itself to host trees and feeds off them. Project partners, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, will provide the mistletoe sample, collected from near the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art.