Mystery peeled off banana genome

An international consortium of plant scientists has brought us closer to understanding what makes a banana a banana. A computational system developed by the UA's Eric Lyons aided the research.

Sequencing the banana genome has revealed the secrets of its 520 million base pairs, the ''letters'' of the genetic code. This work is a big step toward understanding the genetics of and improving banana varieties, and was done within the framework of the Global Musa Genomics Consortium.

The results are published in the 12 July issue of the journal Nature. The banana genome was found to contain more than 36,000 genes, slightly more than the human genome.

Eric Lyons, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences and a member of the iPlant Collaborative, which is based at the UA's BIO5 Institute, contributed to the project by developing a key part of the cyber infrastructure necessary to handle and analyze the huge amounts of data generated by deciphering the sequence.

The tool helps in figuring out the meaning behind the genetic alphabet of the banana by comparing it to other plant genomes.

''We are dealing with huge amounts of information,'' Lyons said. ''Plant genomes are incredibly dynamic, which makes them some of the most fascinating and at the same time most difficult organisms to study.''