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Discovering Higher Genetic Variability of Korean-cultured Sea Mustard than Wild One

Date. 2021-02-22
Hit. 92

Evolutionary process of sea mustard attracts the academic attention, hopefully facilitating breeding research and development of new strains.



The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF; Minister MOON, Seong-Hyeok) announced that the evolutionary process of edible sea mustard (Undaria pinnatifida; Korean phonetic spelling “miyeok”) was first-ever analyzed under a massive genome sequencing project, of which finding was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, an international science journal.


The research team of Sungkyunkwan University, led by Prof. Yoon, Hwan Su and Dr. Louis Graf, investigated the genetic diversity of differently-originated sea mustard with the comparative analysis. While the MOF has been promoting “Korea post genome project” since 2014 to secure and industrialize original genome technology, the study, entitled “Analysis of the marine plant genomes”, decoded the genetic structures of 41 types of sea mustard including wild, farmed and overseas-growing ones (Europe and New Zealand).


The research team initially designed a map of high-quality chromosome-level reference genome* of miyeok cultured in Wando, a south-west region of Korea, to conduct the comparative analysis on the genetic variability with the foreign-borne types. With the finding that the ones in Europe and New Zealand were originated from the Korean-native, the analysis discovered that the overseas paled beside the Korean, both wild and cultured ones, in genetic diversity. This implies “founder effect” that only a few individuals successfully took their root overseas.

* Reference genome: the one used as the standards for comparing variable genetic markers


Another comparative study unexpectedly defied the conventional wisdom that farmed species would have lower level of genetic diversity than the wild one. This comparison was conducted as taking the farmed species in Wando and wild ones in Gosung & Tongyoung, both located in the East Sea. The result highlights that the genetic diversity of the cultured miyeok survives in the long history of its farming, begun in the 1970s, well adapting itself to the fluctuating environmental events such as climate change and diseases.


The study’s outcome deserves wide acclaim for its successful sequencing of miyeok’s genome for the first time. It is also expected that the resultant data could valuably be used as the reference for basic and applied research including molecular evolutionary studies of seaweed and development of new strains with high temperature tolerance.


Encouraged by the praiseworthy achievement, the team plans to devote itself to further analysis of the genetic diversity of sea mustard living in different places over the world to trace the plant’s origin and identify dispersal routs & dynamics.


Director Lim, Young-hun of Marine and Fisheries Bio-resources Division of the MOF stated that “We are committed to the breeding research activities to develop new strains of miyeok, built on the reference genome engineered this time. My ministry will be a faithful supporter for the development of new functional strains; industrialization of bio-resources through genome analysis of marine species; and preservation of Korean endemic species.”