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The Genetic Map of Artemisia annua L. Identifies Loci Affecting Yield of the Antimalarial Drug Artemisinin

Science  15 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5963, pp. 328-331
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182612

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The Art of Artemisia

As the malaria parasite, which is transmitted through mosquito vectors, develops resistance, previously useful control mechanisms are beginning to fail. Combination therapies based on the plant product artemisinin are a promising alternative. Graham et al. (p. 328; see the Perspective by Milhous and Weina) have now developed a genetic map of the plant Artemisia annua from which artemisinin is derived. The results lay the foundation for improving agricultural productivity of this natural product, which is becoming increasingly important in the fight against malaria.

Abstract

Artemisinin is a plant natural product produced by Artemisia annua and the active ingredient in the most effective treatment for malaria. Efforts to eradicate malaria are increasing demand for an affordable, high-quality, robust supply of artemisinin. We performed deep sequencing on the transcriptome of A. annua to identify genes and markers for fast-track breeding. Extensive genetic variation enabled us to build a detailed genetic map with nine linkage groups. Replicated field trials resulted in a quantitative trait loci (QTL) map that accounts for a significant amount of the variation in key traits controlling artemisinin yield. Enrichment for positive QTLs in parents of new high-yielding hybrids confirms that the knowledge and tools to convert A. annua into a robust crop are now available.

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