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An international team composed in part by researchers from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), has succeeded in forming the first sequencing of the pea genome. Other than providing a better understanding of the genome of this plant compared to that of other legumes, will help improve certain characteristics of interest in peas, such as disease resistance, yield regularity, and nutritional value.

In 1866, Pisum sativum L., the legume better known by the name pea, allowed Gregor Mendel to discover the laws of heredity. This monk, fascinated by the natural sciences, crossed different types of peas (yellow, green, smooth, wrinkled), and compared their appearance in different generations. These observations are today considered the first steps of genetics. More than a century and a half after Mendel, the study led by INRA researchers provided the first genetic sequence of peas.

To reconstitute the genetic sequence of peas, several billion short DNA sequences were ordered. The pea genome is particularly large: More than 1.4 times larger than the human genome, it is also substantially more complex and difficult to order because it contains many highly repetitive sequences.

Thanks to phylogenetic and paleogenomic approaches, the team demonstrated that the major genomic rearrangements took place during legume evolution. The evolution of the genus Pisum is associated with a dynamic process of rapid genetic evolution, including many translocations and transpositions. These changes are probably linked to the increase in the genome’s size that occurred during the divergence of the Fabeae group of species, which includes peas, lentils and beans, among other legumes.

Knowing the whole pea genome will enable a better understanding of the molecular bases of the pea’s characteristics of interest. This will facilitate the selection of agronomic traits in this species, in a context of climate change and high demand for plant proteins.