R-Syst is a national network of a dozen research teams (from two INRA departments: SPE and EFPA) involved in the molecular and morphological characterization of organisms.
This network develops a dictionary between genetic and phenotypic variabilities, allowing a better characterization of these organisms. The main objective is to develop a computer tool (for scientists and non-specialist professionals) to identify the species of groups of organisms of interest to INRA (trees, insects, fungi, micro-algae and bacteria). Its development is based on a network of skills in taxonomy, molecular biology and bioinformatics.
The aim is to obtain a tool accessible by all (via Internet) which is composed :
- One or several databases, gathering all the living organisms studied by INRA, listed by detailed cards (specimen, species name, DNA sequence allowing to identify it)
- A detailed search engine to search these databases
This tool has various applications: biodiversity management, pest monitoring, water quality, identification of organisms of medical or veterinary interest.
INRA researchers with many years of experience in describing, classifying and recognizing organisms now add knowledge of the genome and its variability to their arsenal. All these skills will be made available to as many people as possible through the creation of a database accessible via the Internet allowing organisms to be identified from the sequencing of their genome, which is becoming an increasingly accessible operation. The user will send the sample to be identified, for example a caterpillar found in an apple, to a specialized company for sequencing. The sequence obtained will be compared via the R-Syst database with the collection of sequences obtained by INRA and other research organisations, and thus will allow rapid identification. A documented and illustrated fact sheet will allow the user to learn more and possibly obtain advice on how to proceed.
The construction of this database is based on a network of INRA laboratories and other institutions that maintain collections of organizations that serve as references for identification:
Insect pests of European plants: 2000 species at INRA Montpellier.
Aphids from France and Europe: 600 species at the INRA of Montpellier and Rennes.
Abeilles de France: 350 species at INRA Avignon.
Parasitoids: 50 strains of lepidopteran egg parasites pest crops at INRA Sophia.
Forest pests: 200 quarantine pests (i.e. prohibited in France and under surveillance) at INRA Orléans.
Mycorrhizal fungi useful for forestry and agriculture: several thousand at INRA Nancy.
Bacteria responsible for plant diseases: 5000 strains at INRA in Angers.
Microalgae: more than 1000 cultures and samples preserved at INRA Thonon.
Guyanese forest trees: living collection of 750 species set up by the IRD in Guyana.
In total, more than 30 people (researchers, engineers and technicians) from several organizations, assisted by several bioinformaticians, are involved in this network at the national level.