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Oil palm biotechnologies are definitely out of infancy

Rival A., Jaligot E.. 2010. OCL. Oléagineux Corps gras Lipides, 17 (6) : p. 368-374.

DOI: 10.1684/ocl.2010.0341

Although biotechnologies and sustainable development are often considered as antagonists, there is increasing evidence for a role for this approach in the ecological intensification of oil palm cultivation. Ecological intensification is based on the understanding of how nature functions so as to exploit its resources without destroying it. Living organisms are supported by the genome (DNA) through the action of the transcriptome (RNAs), proteome, metabolome, and ionome, the four basic pillars of functional genomics. These pillars represent the sum of all the expressed genes, proteins, metabolites, and elements within an organism. The dynamic response and interaction of these biochemical ''omes'' defines how a living system functions, and its study, systems biology, is now one of the biggest challenges in life sciences. In oil palm, as in many major crops, functional genomics is still at its beginning, although there are no reasons why oil palm should not rapidly benefit from the fast progresses generated by automated and high-throughput technologies. The success of sequencing projects on model plants has created a widespread interest in exploring the structure and expression patterns of the genome. Indeed, several institutions have now achieved the full sequencing of the oil palm genome, paving the way for the rapid evolution of various genomics-based approaches. Oil palm breeding has provided an average 1% of genetic gain per year since the early 1960s and such an impressive increase in oil yield will be maintained in future generations with a major contribution from biotechnology. Indeed, the recent adoption of biotechnological approaches has already proven very useful in major areas such as cloning of outstanding material, identity checking of progenies/mother palms, identification and characterization of genes underlying agricultural traits, etc. Phenotypic differences among individuals are partly the result of quantitative differences in transcript abundance. Using microarray technology, it is now possible to assess the abundance of many transcripts-and, indeed, of the entire known transcriptome- simultaneously. Studies which attempt to localize the genetic regulators of gene expression have been carried out in several species, including maize and eucalyptus. Microarrays have been used to determine gene expression levels in segregating populations and identify genomic regions (gene expression QTLs, or eQTLs) explaining transcript variation in co-regulated genes. Our article will focus on recent developments in various plant biotechnology areas in which applications for improving sustainability already exist or will be developed in the near future.

Mots-clés : elaeis guineensis; biotechnologie végétale; expression des gènes; essai de provenances; hérédité; génome; agriculture durable

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