Genome sequence and genetic diversity of European ash trees.
Ash trees (genus Fraxinus, family Oleaceae) are widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but are being devastated in Europe by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, causing ash dieback, and in North America by the herbivorous beetle Agrilus planipennis. Here we sequence the genome of a low-heterozygosity Fraxinus excelsior tree from Gloucestershire, UK, annotating 38,852 protein-coding genes of which 25% appear ash specific when compared with the genomes of ten other plant species. Analyses of paralogous genes suggest a whole-genome duplication shared with olive (Olea europaea, Oleaceae). We also re-sequence 37 F. excelsior trees from Europe, finding evidence for apparent long-term decline in effective population size. Using our reference sequence, we re-analyse association transcriptomic data, yielding improved markers for reduced susceptibility to ash dieback. Surveys of these markers in British populations suggest that reduced susceptibility to ash dieback may be more widespread in Great Britain than in Denmark. We also present evidence that susceptibility of trees to H. fraxineus is associated with their iridoid glycoside levels. This rapid, integrated, multidisciplinary research response to an emerging health threat in a non-model organism opens the way for mitigation of the epidemic.