The first two chromosome-scale genome assemblies of American hazelnut enable comparative genomic analysis of the genus Corylus

Plant Biotechnol J. 2024 Feb;22(2):472-483. doi: 10.1111/pbi.14199. Epub 2023 Oct 23.


The native, perennial shrub American hazelnut (Corylus americana) is cultivated in the Midwestern United States for its significant ecological benefits, as well as its high-value nut crop. Implementation of modern breeding methods and quantitative genetic analyses of C. americana requires high-quality reference genomes, a resource that is currently lacking. We therefore developed the first chromosome-scale assemblies for this species using the accessions 'Rush' and 'Winkler'. Genomes were assembled using HiFi PacBio reads and Arima Hi-C data, and Oxford Nanopore reads and a high-density genetic map were used to perform error correction. N50 scores are 31.9 Mb and 35.3 Mb, with 90.2% and 97.1% of the total genome assembled into the 11 pseudomolecules, for 'Rush' and 'Winkler', respectively. Gene prediction was performed using custom RNAseq libraries and protein homology data. 'Rush' has a BUSCO score of 99.0 for its assembly and 99.0 for its annotation, while 'Winkler' had corresponding scores of 96.9 and 96.5, indicating high-quality assemblies. These two independent assemblies enable unbiased assessment of structural variation within C. americana, as well as patterns of syntenic relationships across the Corylus genus. Furthermore, we identified high-density SNP marker sets from genotyping-by-sequencing data using 1343 C. americana, C. avellana and C. americana × C. avellana hybrids, in order to assess population structure in natural and breeding populations. Finally, the transcriptomes of these assemblies, as well as several other recently published Corylus genomes, were utilized to perform phylogenetic analysis of sporophytic self-incompatibility (SSI) in hazelnut, providing evidence of unique molecular pathways governing self-incompatibility in Corylus.

Keywords: Corylus americana; comparative genomics; de novo genome assembly; hazelnut; population genetics; sporophytic self-incompatibility.

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes
  • Corylus* / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Breeding