Lab Canada

Canadian researchers make significant contribution to global Brassica research community

Saskatoon, SK – The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) say they have released the single largest number ever of DNA sequences for Brassica napus (canola) and related species.

These sequences have been added to the global repository for DNA sequence information ” GenBank (

“Canola is Canada’s plant,” says Dr Pierre Coulombe, NRC president. “The long-standing partnership between AAFC and NRC has been vital to the development of canola. It is a vital part of our economy and it will be even more valuable in the future. Maintaining a scientific leadership position with this plant is critical to providing our industry with the knowledge base necessary to improve yields and diversify the applications towards which canola can be applied.”

As part of a long-standing cooperative research effort between the AAFC Saskatoon Research Centre (AAFC-SRC) and the NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute, Canadian researchers have been working with expressed sequence tags (ESTs) to understand how specific genes within canola react to their environment and create compounds important in biofuels and healthy oils for foods. Rather than using traditional time-consuming methods to isolate genes, ESTs provide researchers with a quick and accurate view of fragments of a DNA sequence – the functional parts of a genome where gene expression takes place. By using ESTs to study how genes are expressed within canola, it is then possible to determine ways to manipulate these genes in order to improve crop yields and produce stronger and more-resistant seeds for food and industrial applications.

“This research focuses not only on an area of strategic importance to Canada but raises our profile in the international community,” says AAFC research scientist Dr Isobel Parkin (current chair of the Multinational Brassica Genome Project).

In conjunction with two Genome Canada projects, Enhancing Canola through Genomics (managed by Genome Prairie) and Designing Oilseeds for Tomorrow’s Markets (managed by Genome Alberta), NRC and AAFC have been using ESTs to examine how gene expression is involved in canola seed development.

With 437,000 Brassica ESTs generated at NRC-PBI and 160,000 generated at AAFC-SRC, the submission of this joint collection marks the most significant DNA sequence contribution to the global Brassica research community representing nearly 90% of all submitted Brassica ESTs. The contribution of the EST collection is especially timely since it will be a valuable tool in annotating the Brassica rapa genome, which is being sequenced as part of an International community effort.

“Genome Canada is enthusiastic about the results of this genomics research, which will bring improvements not only to Canada’s food and agriculture industry but to every citizen as an end result through health and economic advancements,” says Dr Martin Godbout, president and CEO, Genome Canada.