Plant Sciences


| Share

Plant Sciences Researchers Are Co-authors on Common Bean Genome Sequence Publication

NDSU Plant Sciences researchers Dr. Phil McClean and Dr. Juan Osorno are members of a national research team that successfully completed the sequence of the common bean genome.

Two North Dakota State University scientists are members of a national research team that successfully completed the sequence of the common bean genome.  Dr. Phil McClean, a co-lead author of the June 8th publication in Nature Genetics, guided the data analysis that determined that the domestication of common bean in Mexico and the Andean region of South America involved almost completely different sets of genes.  Dr. Juan Osorno organized a national field trial that identified regions of the genome associated with seed size and other traits of economic importance.  Both scientists are members of the NDSU Department of Plant Sciences.

McClean and Osorno worked in collaboration with project lead Scott Jackson, University of Georgia, Dan Rokhsar of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and Jeremy Schmutz of the DOE JGI and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.  Other NDSU personnel include postdoctoral scientist Sujan Mamidi, graduate student Samira Mafi Moghaddam, and research associate, Rian Lee.  These three are members of McClean’s research group.  Three other former NDSU graduate students also participated on the project: Phil Miklas, USDA-ARS, Prosser, WA; Perry Cregan, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, MD; and Carlos Urrea, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  The project was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 “The genome sequence has important implications for North Dakota agriculture,” according to Osorno, the NDSU dry bean breeder.  The state produces 30% of this billion dollar crop.  The sequence will help breeders release varieties that are competitive with other crops the producer can grow.  This includes breeding a more climate resilient bean.  The sequence revealed that disease resistance genes are highly clustered in the genome, knowledge that will lead to better breeding strategies to combat the many diseases that challenge the bean crop.  McClean and Osorno are cooperating locally, nationally, and internationally with other bean breeders and geneticists to develop the next generation of molecular markers that will be another important tool to aid bean breeding world-wide.  This is in conjunction with the $4 million USDA Common Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project (Bean CAP) that Dr. McClean leads, a project that involves nine other US bean research groups. (

For the study, the team sequenced and assembled a 473-million basepair genome of the common bean. Though the major gene pools are thought to have originated in Mexico more than 100,000 years ago, the common bean was domesticated separately at two different geographic locations in Mesoamerica and the Andes. The team then compared sequences from populations representing these regions and discovered only 59 (out of 27,000) shared domestications genes. This indicated that different events were involved in the domestication process at each location.  “These results will allow us to focus our attention on a specific subset of genes as we look for genomic regions important for the improvement of the many bean market classes” says McClean, a plant genomicist. 

From a global perspective, this information could be beneficial to farmers in developing countries that practice the intercropping system known as “milpa”, where beans, corn, and occasionally squash, are planted together.   The practice ensures that their land can continue to produce high-yield crops without resorting to adding fertilizers or other chemical methods of providing nutrients to the soil.  In addition, as breeders and genomic scientists in other countries work with NDSU to utilize this important new genetic resource, other production constraints unique to the “milpa” system can be addressed.

Source: Phil McClean, 701-231-8443,; Juan Osorno, 701-231-8145,

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.