Bridgestone Corporation today announced that it has successfully decoded the main genome sequence*1 for Hevea brasiliensis*2a euphorbiaceous plant material for producing latex*3 – commonly known as the rubber tree – which produces latex. Latex is the natural rubber required for tire production and a myriad of other important rubber products. The research breakthrough was accomplished in conjunction with Genome Informatics Laboratory in the National Institute of Genetics (Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture) *4.
This new genome data is expected to facilitate development of improved breeding technologies and growing methods for Hevea brasiliensis/natural rubber. These technologies can enable the development of a better clone of the plant and improve the yield and quality of the latex produced. The data also may accelerate research applications in a variety of fields, including the development of a clone with superior disease resistance and stress tolerance.
The Bridgestone Group (the Group) has been conducting basic research into molecular breeding*5 of Hevea brasiliensis to enhance the productivity of natural rubber. To accelerate these research activities, the Group has decoded an estimated 1.4 billion base pair (bp)*6 genome for Hevea brasiliensis together with the Genome Informatics Laboratory in the National Institute of Genetics. The sequence data obtained through this research project is estimated to cover more than 90% of the gene-rich regions of the genome.
The Group is advancing initiatives in several fields for developing the natural rubber industry. For example, since February 2011, Bridgestone, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and the Indonesian Technology Assessment and Application Agency have been partnering on international biotechnology projects aimed at increasing natural rubber production. This type of research is not only expected to help increase the productivity of natural rubber but also advance the use of genome science for industry.
Demand for tires is expected to increase in tandem with the growth in automobile ownership worldwide. The Group is committed to effectively using the earth’s resources as well as the advancement of ‘reducing’, ‘reusing’, and ‘recycling’ initiatives. In addition, the Group believes that in the future new resources for tires should derive from sustainable materials. Therefore, the Group aims to eventually develop tires from 100% sustainable materials*7 through research into biomaterials in several fields, including the research discussed here for enhancing natural rubber productivity.
*1 The ‘blueprint’ of living organisms containing the genetic information needed in maintenance and reproduction of the life.
*2 A tropical tree native to Brazil, currently the only plant that can produce natural rubber as a raw material for industrial applications
*3 Emulsion with a natural rubber component produced from Hevea brasiliensis
*4 Decoding the Genome sequence was fully supported this time by Illumina Inc. (Chuo-ku, Tokyo).
*5 Breeding using genetic information
*6 bp (base pairs): the smallest length unit of DNA that comprise genome
*7 Materials other than those such as fossil fuel that are expected to be depleted after prolonged use.
About Bridgestone Europe
Bridgestone Europe (BSEU), with European headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, is a key regional subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of tyres and other rubber products. Bridgestone Europe operates an R&D center, 8 plants and offices in more than 30 European countries, with over 13,000 employees. BSEU’s premium tyres are sold both within Europe and globally.