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R-Syst network

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R-syst is a network of systematics. The whole of biology has been built on the concepts of evolutionary biology for 150 years. The purpose of systematics is to count and classify living beings and thus to name diversity. Organisms are described and grouped into entities called taxa and these taxa have gradually been placed on the phylogenetic tree of life (Tree of Life). For several centuries, taxonomists have built this building based on phenotypic, mainly morphological, criteria. Technological advances and the study of organism genomes have allowed another approach to taxonomy. Thus, the molecular diversity of organisms' genomes is a potential indicator not only of their evolution, but also of their taxonomic classification.

A crucial activity of current taxonomy is to reconcile the perimeters of taxa built on a morphological basis, and a filiation built on a phylogenetic tree. However, the know-how to name and classify living organisms can only be divided into a very large number of experts, because there are several tens of millions of species, and the challenge of being able to name an organism rapidly is immense.

To this end, several laboratories of the National Institute of Agronomic Research have joined together in a project, called R-Syst (for Systematic Network), to make the information collected on the systematic, phenotypic and genotypic aspects of the organisms they study accessible to the entire scientific community, and to promote a link between these different types of information. These organisms belong to a wide variety of kingdoms, and include, for example, phytophagous bacteria, diatoms, fungi, oomycetes, plants, and invertebrates (insects, nematodes).
The aim of this network is to develop a dictionary between genetic and phenotypic variabilities, allowing a better characterization of these organisms. The developpment of  a molecular database to identify the species of groups of organisms of interest to INRA (trees, insects, nematodes, fungi, oomycetes, micro-algae and bacteria) is based on a network of skills in taxonomy, molecular biology and bioinformatics.

The final objective is therefore to obtain a tool accessible to all (via Internet) which will be composed as follows:

  • an "R-Syst::database" database consisting of several databases (one per taxon) containing the living organisms studied by INRA, listed by detailed sheets (specimen, species name, DNA sequence allowing it to be identified). 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.
  • a comprehensive search engine to query these databases ()
  • species identification tools

This tool could have various applications: biodiversity management, pest monitoring, water quality, identification of organisms of medical or veterinary interest.