Genomics and Bioinformatics Team | 2020 CucCAP Progress Report

Team members: Zhangjun Fei (Boyce Thompson Institute), Umesh Reddy (West Virginia St. Univ.), Amnon Levi (USDA, ARS), Yiqun Weng (USDA, ARS), Michael Mazourek (Cornell University), Pat Wechter (USDA, ARS), and Rebecca Grumet (Michigan State University)

Genotyping by sequencing

In closely working with Cornell Genomic Diversity Facilty, we have set up the genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) platform for the cucurbit species.

Sequence data processing/analysis

We have established a GBS data analysis pipeline based on TASSEL-GBS (

ICuGI database development

We have re-implemented the ICuGI database (now named Cucurbit Genomics Database (CuGenDB), and the new URL: using the GMOD Tripal system ( and the Chado database schema ( The newly designed and developed database was released in May 2017. Currently the database contains genome sequences of melon, watermelon (97103 and Charleston Gray), cucumber (Chinese Long and Gy14), wild cucumber (Cucumis sativus var. hardwickii PI 183967), four Cucurbita species (C. pepo, C. maxima, C. moschata and C. argyrosperma), bottle gourd and wax gourd. Genome syntenies between any two of the sequenced cucurbits have been identified and a synteny viewer have been implemented in the database. An “expression” module has been developed in the database using RNA-Seq datasets publicly available for cucurbit species, mainly collected from NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA). A set of tools to mine and analyze the RNA-Seq datasets, such as heatmap view of expression profiles and differential gene expression analysis, were implemented. The synteny viewer and the expression module have been packed as Tripal extension modules which can be implemented in other genomic databases developed using the Tripal system. Development of tools and interfaces to analyze and integrate genotype and phenotype data is ongoing. A manuscript describing the database has been published (Zheng et al., 2019, Nucleic Acids Research, 47:D1128).

Community standardized nomenclature

The cucumber community has developed a set of vocabularies for QTL mapping (Wang et al. 2020, Horticulture Research, 7:3). Vocabularies for fruit size, weight and shape in QTL mapping across cucurbit crops were also recommended (Pan et al. 2020, Theor Appl Genet 133:1).

Genomic, bioinformatics workshops

A workshop on the Cucurbit Genomics Database was held at the Solcuc2017 meeting in Sept. 2017 at Valencia, Spain. A talk on the database was presented at the CUCURBITACEAE 2018 in November 2018 at Davis, California.

GBS of cucurbit species, establish molecular-informed core populations

We have finished GBS for all cucumber, melon, watermelon, Cucurbita pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata accessions collected from the USDA National Plant Germplasm System (Table 1). After removing accessions with insufficient reads and merging duplicated accessions, a total of 1,564 cucumber, 2,077 melon, 1,365 watermelon, 852 C. pepo, 463 C. maxima and 314 C. moschata accessions have been genotyped (Table 2). We have finished processing the GBS data and SNP calling for all species.

We obtained a total of 1.71, 1.57 and 0.88 billion GBS reads with expected barcodes for melon, cucumber and watermelon, respectively. From these reads, a total of 54,192,089, 76,860,960 and 34,621,369 unique tags were obtained, and 743,545, 593,678 and 388,298 tags with at least 10 reads were used for SNP calling for melon, cucumber and watermelon, respectively. A total of 89,377, 114,338 and 62,258 SNPs were called in melon, cucumber and watermelon, respectively, and 27,846, 23,828, and 25,930 SNPs were obtained by applying criteria of missing data rate < 0.5 and minor allele frequency (MAF) > 0.01 (Table 3).

Table 1 Summary of cucurbit GBS


DNA plate No.

Multi-plex Level


DNA Submission Date

Data Release Date

1 8 96 cucumber 4/13/2016 7/12/2016
2 9 96 cucumber 5/2/2016 7/12/2016
3 11,121,314 384 cucumber 8/24/2016 10/18/2016
4 25,616 384 cucumber 9/23/2016 11/21/2016
5 14,715 384 cucumber 10/3/2016 11/21/2016
6 31,343,536 384 watermelon 10/19/2016 11/21/2016
7 37,383,940 384 watermelon 10/31/2016 1/3/2017
8 41,424,344 384 watermelon 11/4/2016 2/15/2017
10 3,101,746 384 cucumber 1/20/2017 &
11 50,515,253 384 melon 2/14/2017 5/5/2017
12 54,555,657 384 melon 2/22/2017 5/5/2017
13 58,596,061 384 melon 3/2/2017 5/5/2017
14 62,636,465 384 melon 3/16/2017 5/5/2017
15 66,676,869 384 melon 3/23/2017 5/5/2017
16 21,323,370 384 melon & watermelon 3/23/2017 5/31/2017
17 71,727,374 384 1 melon & 3 squash 4/19/2017 6/13/2017
18 75,767,778 384 squash 5/31/2017 7/11/2017
19 22,237,980 384 squash 8/18/2017 9/25/2017
26 8,182 192 C. maxima 3/1/2018 3/22/2018
27 8,384 192 C. maxima 3/1/2018 3/22/2018
29 27 96 C. maxima 3/20/2018 10/9/2018

Table 2 Summary of cucurbit accessions genotyped using GBS




C. pepo

C. moschata

C. maxima

Total No. of plants genotyped 2090 1604 1377 854 318 463
No. accessions with low reads 5 3 11 0 0 0
No. accessions genotyped more than once 8 36 1 1 4 0
Final No. accessions genotyped 2077 1564 1365 852 314 463

Table 3 Summary of GBS SNPs

No. raw SNPs

No. SNPs with missing rate <0.5 and MAF <0.01

melon 89,377 27,846
cucumber 114,338 23,828
watermelon 62,258 25,930
C. pepo 108279 47544
C. moschata 85345 46859
C. maxima 49904 4787

A core collection selection strategy has been developed. Briefly, a total of ~400 accessions were selected for each species. Around 300 accessions which represent the majority of the genetic diversity of the germplasm, based on the core collection analysis using GenoCore (Jeong et al., 2017, PLoS ONE 12:e0181420), were selected. Another ~100 accessions with interesting traits and/or parents of mapping/breed populations were selected. In the final core collection, if a selected line is known to be derived from a PI accession that is also in the final core collection, then the corresponding PI should be replaced with the most closely related one on the phylogenetic tree. Accessions in the final core collection whose genomes have already been resequenced should also be replaced by the most closely related ones on the phylogenetic tree, unless they harbor very interesting/important traits. Based on this strategy, core collections of melon, cucumber, watermelon and Cucurbita spp. have been established. For example, the melon core collection contains 384 accessions and captures 98.96% of all allelic diversity in the melon germplasm we have genotyped, and the cucumber core collection contains 395 accessions, of which 354 are from the GBS collection and captures 95.9% of all allele diversity, and 41 are historical varieties with important horticultural and disease resistance traits. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the melon and cucumber core collections showed similar pattern to that of the entire collections (e.g., melon shown in Figure 1).

The melon core S1 production is well underway. About 150 members were selfed in 2019. The balance of the 384-member group is being selfed through summer 2020 with fruit from about 110 accessions harvested as of May 28, 2020.

Population genomics and GWAS analyses

Using SNPs called from the GBS data, we have performed population genomic analyses for cucumber, watermelon and melon accessions. Phylogenetic, PCA and population structure analyses have been done for accessions of cucumber, watermelon and melon. The results from these analyses for watermelon accessions are shown in Figure 2 as an example. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) decay patterns and population differentiation have also been investigated for these species.

We have collected historical phenotype data from the USDA National Plant Germplasm System for cucumber, watermelon and melon accessions. GWAS have been performed to identify SNPs and regions that are significantly associated with important agronomic traits. GWAS forwatermelon resistance to powdery mildew race 2 is shown in Figure 3 as an example.

Manuscripts reporting the results from population genomics and GWAS analyses as well as core collection development has been published for cucumber (Wang et al., 2018, Horticulture Research 5:64) and watermelon (Wu et al., 2019, Plant Biotechnol J 17:2246), and for melon and Cucurbita spp. are under preparation.

Genomic resequencing of core collections

We have compared cost-effective services for Illumina genomic library construction to accommodate our budget for genome resequencing of the core collections, and selected the “Nextera skim sequencing WGS library preps (1/3 concentration)’ service provided by Cornell Biotechnology Resource Center (, which charges $1,152 per full plate (96 samples) and additional $900 for pooling and Blue pippin size selection ($2,052 in total; $21.4 per sample).

We have sent 21 C. pepo samples (one Illumina lane) and two plates of cucumber samples (192 samples; 6 lanes per plate) in the core collection for library construction. The constructed libraries have been sequenced at GENEWIZ (~$1,500 per lane, which generates ~120 Gb paired-end sequence data). We have obtained cleaned sequence data of >10× depth of the coverage for most of the accessions (Figure 4).

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