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Understanding the Genomics, Evolution and Taxonomy of Genus Boswellia

Key personals:  Abdul Latif Khan (Uni of Houston), Ahmed Al-Harrasi, Ali Al-Lawathi, Sajjad Asaf (University of Nizwa), Daniel Schachtman, Jean-Jack Reithoven (U of Nebraska-Lincoln), Jason Eslamieh, Nadiya Al-Saadi (Al-Mawarid)

Boswellia, a fragrance oleu-gum (Frankincense) producing genus, growing in south Arabia, Afirica and India There are 19 species, with Boswellia sacra, B. serrata and B. papyrifera being the most economically important species. Frankincense derived from these species is burnt on charcoal to produce fragrant smoke in houses, mosques and churches. Chemically, a huge structural diversity is found in genus Boswellia which influences the physical appearance, fragrance and possibly the color. The unexplored economic value of frankincense resin is due to its terpene’s rich terpenes content mainly boswellic acids that have attracted wide international interest due to their reported anti-cancer activity and incensole derivatives yet a very promising anti-depression compound. The 21 known species of this complex genus vary significantly which explains the complex structural diversity of this economically and medically important genus. The project aims: 1) To understand the genomic composition, size, organization, structure and phylogenetics of 21 species from genus Boswellia, using chloroplast genome sequencing approaches. 2) To identify pattern of variation across heterogenous species and single-nucleotide polymorphisms markers in the genome essential trait of complex phenotypes (e.g. leaf pattern) using genome profiling and genotyping by sequencing approaches. 3) To identify genes responsible for resin biosynthesis across the different species of Boswellia and establish the unique and mutual gene set. The project is still underway.