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Photo: CNAG-CRG.

The sequence of the almond tree and peach tree genomes will be key tools in their genetic improvement and adaptation to climate change

An international team led by researchers of the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) in conjunction with Tyler Alioto of the Centre Nacional d’Anàlisi Genòmica (CNAG-CRG) –based in PCB and part of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG)– has sequenced the genome of the almond tree and compared it to that of its closest relative, the peach tree. The results provide some unique insights into the recent evolution of both species and will be key tools in their genetic improvement, including the eradication of bitter almonds, fruit quality and adaptation to climate change.


The almond tree and the peach tree are two well-known species, since human beings have been eating their fruit (peach) or seed (almond) for thousands of years. Although at first sight the products of these trees may seem to be very different, both species are part of the Prunus genus and are genetically very similar, so much so that they can be crossed and fertile hybrids can be obtained from them.

Now, an international team led by researchers of the Centre de Recerca en Agrigenòmica (CRAG) has sequenced the genome of one almond tree variety and compared it to the peach tree genome. The detailed comparison of both genomes provides insights into their evolutionary history and reveals the key role played by the genome’s mobile elements (also known as transposable elements, or transposons) in the diversification of both species. According to the authors of the paper, the movement of the transposons could lie at the origin of the differences between the fruit of both species or the flavour of the almond.

Learning about the almond tree’s genome will be a very important tool in the improvement of the species. “For example, this information will enable us to look for more productive and more disease-resistant varieties and also rule out those that bear bitter almonds more easily,” explains Pere Arús, an IRTA researcher at the CRAG. Arús led the study, which has been published in The Plant Journal, and also took part in the international consortium that ultimately sequenced the peach tree genome in 2013.

Reference article: Alioto T., et al. “Transposons played a major role in the diversification between the closely related almond and peach genomes: Results from the almond genome sequence“. The Plant Journal (2019) DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14538

►More information: CNAG-CRG website [+]