The Second meeting of the Heliconius Genome Consortium from March 25-26th 2010 was an awe inspiring event, from the decadence of St. John’s College to the impressive data on candidate color pattern genes. However, the focus of the meeting was the Heliconius genome, and with data rolling in from all over, there was plenty to discuss. Chris Jiggins and St John’s College were fantastic hosts, and provided everything we needed to stay caffeinated and involved throughout the days.
Over the two days, Heliconius biologists, bioinformaticians, others from sequencing centers and places of the sort, developed a timeline and framework for annotating, curating, sharing and analyzing the H. melpomene genome. The first freeze and release of an assembled H. melpomene genome could be within the next 3 months. Servers at UCI are already in place in order to hold the sequence data, a BLAST server and a GBROWSE server. Over the coming months CHADO databases will be built, annotation pipelines will be laid, and preliminary genomic analyses will begin.
Beyond the first H. melpomene reference genome being done with 454, we have had our eyes on other races and species of Heliconius to sequence. Plans were outlined for re-sequencing the genomes H. cydno, H. numata, H. erato and more H. melpomene races using Illumina. Plans were also made for RAD-tagging, using Illumina. Mapping families are currently being raised in Panama to create a RAD-tag linkage map for the H. meplomene genome. We are also considering using RAD-tags to scan for population differentiation between the various races of H. erato and H. melpomene. At this point the genome project seemed to be expanding significantly, but the biology was getting a lot more interesting. We just need to convince some funding agencies.
The meeting slowed to a discussion of funds, and how to afford all these awesome experiments. Grant opportunities were discussed and working groups on various topics/aspects relevant to the genome project, were assembled. The meeting ended with a fantastic dinner at the St. John’s College, where they offered many of us way too much wine and port.
All in all, the HGC seems to have a solid game plan, a strong group of interested researchers, some money, and data pouring in, making it very soon that we can expect to see good working draft of the Heliconius genome.