Major Projects | International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium
The IWGSC, with 3,350 members in 71 countries, is an international, collaborative consortium, established in 2005 by a group of wheat growers, plant scientists, and public and private breeders. The vision of the IWGSC is a high quality genome sequence of bread wheat that serves as a foundation for the accelerated development of improved varieties and that empowers all aspects of basic and applied wheat science.
Bread wheat is the most extensively cultivated wheat crop, being grown on over 95% of the wheat growing areas
of the world. Its sequence holds the key to genetic improvements that will allow growers to meet the increasing demands for high quality food and feed produced in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable, and profitable manner.
The IWGSC uses a milestone-based, adaptable strategy that ensures the immediate availability of significant outputs for wheat breeders and the wheat industry at large in parallel to continued advancements in basic research on the wheat genome.
The four key milestones of the IWGSC roadmap are:
(1) use of survey sequences of the 21 bread wheat chromosomes to assign gene sequences to individual chromosomes;
(2) develop physical maps to provide resources for sequencing;
(3) deliver a reference sequence for each of the chromosomes; and
(4) produce a gold standard genome sequence by integrating chromosome based genomic resources with the IWGSC whole genome assembly.
The first milestone was reached on July 2014 with the publication of the chromosome-based draft genome sequence in the journal Science. The physical maps for all chromosomes (milestone 2) were completed by the end of 2015. At the end of January 2016, a whole genome shotgun assembly had generated a reference sequence for each chromosome (IWGSC WGA v0.4 - milestone 3); this was made available pre-publication in June 2016 . The annotated, high quality reference sequence improved by integrating chromosome-based map and sequence resources with the whole genome assembly (IWGSC RefSeq v 1.0 – milestone 3) was made available pre-publication in January 2017. In July 2018, all IWGSC reference sequence resources were made publicly available . On 17 August 2018, the IWGSC published in the international journal Science a detailed description and an analysis of the reference sequence of the bread wheat genome. Improved versions of the reference sequence assembly (IWGSC RefSeq v2.1) and annotation (IWGSC RefSeq Annotation v2.1) were made available in April 2021.
With the completion of IWGSC RefSeq v1.0, the Consortium has moved into Phase II and now focuses its efforts on:
- IWGSC Diversity project to characterize the breadth of worldwide wheat diversity.
- IWGSC Wheat Genome Annotation project to identify and assign positions in the Chinese Spring reference bread wheat sequence to important features.
- IWGSC Reference Wheat Genome project to produce a Gold Standard reference genome sequence of the bread wheat genome cv. Chinese Spring.
- Development of Genomics Tools for the community through collaborations with services providers.
With these activities, the IWGSC will reach beyond the reference sequence to provide breeders and the broader scientific community with a full genome-sequence based tool box for wheat improvement.
For more information about the work of the IWGSC, visit www.wheatgenome.org