When agarwood burns, it gives off a strong fragrance and exudes black oil. (Photo: VCG)
Chinese researchers have released the genome sequence of Aquilaria sinensis (Lour.) Spreng (A. sinensis), a tree species that is an important resource of agarwood.
Agarwood is one of the most expensive woods in the world. The fragrant dark resinous wood is used in incense, herbal treatment and carvings. It forms in the central part of Aquilaria trees when the trees are infected with a type of mold.
Under natural conditions, only 7 to 10 percent of A. sinensis trees can form agarwood, and it usually takes dozens of years. Overexploitation has left the species in the wild in a vulnerable situation.
Chinese researchers from the Institute of Tropical Bioscience and Biotechnology and Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences used an integrated approach combining several sequencing technologies to assemble the genome.
They reported in the journal GigaScience that about 59.13 percent of the A. sinensis genome are repeated DNA sequences, and they identified 29,023 protein-coding genes.
Meanwhile, they also found that A. sinensis is closely related to Gossypium hirsutum (Mexican cotton) and Theobroma cacao (cocoa trees), and it diverged from their common ancestor about 53.18 to 84.37 million years ago.
The researchers said that the genome will provide a valuable genetic resource for research on the mechanism of agarwood formation, molecular breeding and the conservation of A. sinensis species. They will update the genome in future studies.