• Poplar;
  • whole genome sequence;
  • model tree.

Abstract: Trees, due to their long life-span, have characteristics that distinguish them from annual, herbaceous plants. It is likely that many of these properties are based on a tree-specific genetic foundation. The U.S. Department of Energy initiated a genome-sequencing project for Populus, a model perennial plant. Through international collaboration and input to the sequencing effort, the annotated whole genome sequence of Populus trichocarpa will be released to the public in early 2004. This genomic resource will, for the first time, allow comparison between a perennial and an annual plant on a whole genome basis and therefore provide clues for molecular research on tree-specific questions like dormancy, development of a secondary cambium, juvenile-mature phase change, or long-term host-pest interactions. The approximately 520 Mbp of annotated genomic sequence will complement and expand the knowledge provided so far by the 125 000 ESTs from poplar that are available in public databases. This article introduces the international poplar research programmes and points out the significance of the poplar genome project for plant research.