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Científicos españoles, con la participación de tres grupos del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), han obtenido un borrador de la secuencia del genoma del melón, que muestra cómo éste cuenta con un número similar de genes que la secuencia del genoma del ser humano.

Este borrador, que abarca cerca del 80 por ciento del genoma, ha desvelado que el melón tiene un genoma de unos 450 millones de pares de bases en sus 12 cromosomas y los primeros datos apuntan a que contiene unos 26.000 genes, un número similar al del genoma humano.

El hallazgo, realizado en el marco del proyecto ‘MELONOMICS’ que financia la fundación Genoma España, constituye la primera secuenciación del genoma de una especie superior liderada por equipos españoles.

Este proyecto, además de la secuenciación de una línea de melón, pretende caracterizar un gran número de variedades de esta especie presentes en los bancos de semillas españoles, incluyendo las tradicionales, y aprovechar la diversidad natural de la especie para generar nuevas variedades de melón con interés agronómico.

Para ello, ‘MELONOMICS’, que arrancó en 2009, cuenta con una duración de tres años y una financiación de 4,1 millones de euros, aportada por Genoma España, cinco comunidades autónomas (Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Madrid y Murcia) y diversas empresas del sector.

El investigador del CSIC y coordinador científico del proyecto, Pere Puigdomènech, resume los principales objetivos del proyecto: «Buscamos identificar variedades resistentes a enfermedades, como por ejemplo, las producidas por hongos, y contribuir a la mejora de la calidad del fruto».

Así, señala que el melón se escogió por su interés científico, al tratarse de una especie con una larga historia genética, para la que han sido descritos caracteres de gran valor en la mejora genética y por su interés económico, «ya que su semilla tiene un valor elevado», puntualizó.

Cultivo «importante» en España
«Es un cultivo importante en varias regiones españolas y nuestro país es el primer exportador mundial de melón», afirmó el director general de la fundación Genoma España, Rafael Camacho.

El siguiente paso de los equipos de investigación, ubicados en centros de Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Madrid, Murcia y Valencia, será terminar el ensamblado del genoma, refinar la secuencia utilizando otras técnicas de secuenciación disponibles y anotar los genes.

En su estado actual, el borrador permite comenzar el trabajo para identificar nuevos genes y marcadores con los que seleccionar nuevas variedades de interés económico. Al término del proyecto se pondrá al alcance de la comunidad científica internacional un genoma de referencia.

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