Reconstructing the origin and evolution of land plants and their algal relatives is a fundamental problem in plant phylogenetics, and is essential for understanding how critical adaptations arose, including the embryo, vascular tissue, seeds, and flowers. Despite advances in molecular systematics, some hypotheses of relationships remain weakly resolved. Inferring deep phylogenies with bouts of rapid diversification can be problematic; however, genome-scale data should significantly increase the number of informative characters for analyses. Recent phylogenomic reconstructions focused on the major divergences of plants have resulted in promising but inconsistent results. One limitation is sparse taxon sampling, likely resulting from the difficulty and cost of data generation. To address this limitation, transcriptome data for 92 streptophyte taxa were generated and analyzed along with 11 published plant genome sequences. Phylogenetic reconstructions were conducted using up to 852 nuclear genes and 1,701,170 aligned sites. Sixty-nine analyses were performed to test the robustness of phylogenetic inferences to permutations of the data matrix or to phylogenetic method, including supermatrix, supertree, and coalescent-based approaches, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods, partitioned and unpartitioned analyses, and amino acid versus DNA alignments. Among other results, we find robust support for a sister-group relationship between land plants and one group of streptophyte green algae, the Zygnematophyceae. Strong and robust support for a clade comprising liverworts and mosses is inconsistent with a widely accepted view of early land plant evolution, and suggests that phylogenetic hypotheses used to understand the evolution of fundamental plant traits should be reevaluated.
Petunia possesses self-incompatibility, by which pistils reject self-pollen but accept non-self-pollen for fertilization. Self-/non-self-recognition between pollen and pistil is regulated by the pistil-specific S-RNase gene and by multiple pollen-specific S-locus F-box (SLF) genes. To date, 10 SLF genes have been identified by various methods, and seven have been shown to be involved in pollen specificity. For a given S-haplotype, each SLF interacts with a subset of its non-self S-RNases, and an as yet unknown number of SLFs are thought to collectively mediate ubiquitination and degradation of all non-self S-RNases to allow cross-compatible pollination. To identify a complete suite of SLF genes of P. inflata, we used a de novo RNA-seq approach to analyze the pollen transcriptomes of S2-haplotype and S3-haplotype, as well as the leaf transcriptome of the S3S3 genotype. We searched for genes that fit several criteria established from the properties of the known SLF genes and identified the same seven new SLF genes in S2-haplotype and S3-haplotype, suggesting that a total of 17 SLF genes constitute pollen specificity in each S-haplotype. This finding lays the foundation for understanding how multiple SLF genes evolved and the biochemical basis for differential interactions between SLF proteins and S-RNases.
Ferns are well known for their shade-dwelling habits. Their ability to thrive under low-light conditions has been linked to the evolution of a novel chimeric photoreceptor--neochrome--that fuses red-sensing phytochrome and blue-sensing phototropin modules into a single gene, thereby optimizing phototropic responses. Despite being implicated in facilitating the diversification of modern ferns, the origin of neochrome has remained a mystery. We present evidence for neochrome in hornworts (a bryophyte lineage) and demonstrate that ferns acquired neochrome from hornworts via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Fern neochromes are nested within hornwort neochromes in our large-scale phylogenetic reconstructions of phototropin and phytochrome gene families. Divergence date estimates further support the HGT hypothesis, with fern and hornwort neochromes diverging 179 Mya, long after the split between the two plant lineages (at least 400 Mya). By analyzing the draft genome of the hornwort Anthoceros punctatus, we also discovered a previously unidentified phototropin gene that likely represents the ancestral lineage of the neochrome phototropin module. Thus, a neochrome originating in hornworts was transferred horizontally to ferns, where it may have played a significant role in the diversification of modern ferns.
Pectins are acidic sugar-containing polysaccharides that are universally conserved components of the primary cell walls of plants and modulate both tip and diffuse cell growth. However, many of their specific functions and the evolution of the genes responsible for producing and modifying them are incompletely understood. The moss Physcomitrella patens is emerging as a powerful model system for the study of plant cell walls. To identify deeply conserved pectin-related genes in Physcomitrella, we generated phylogenetic trees for 16 pectin-related gene families using sequences from ten plant genomes and analyzed the evolutionary relationships within these families.
Ferns are the only major lineage of vascular plants not represented by a sequenced nuclear genome. This lack of genome sequence information significantly impedes our ability to understand and reconstruct genome evolution not only in ferns, but across all land plants. Azolla and Ceratopteris are ideal and complementary candidates to be the first ferns to have their nuclear genomes sequenced. They differ dramatically in genome size, life history, and habit, and thus represent the immense diversity of extant ferns. Together, this pair of genomes will facilitate myriad large-scale comparative analyses across ferns and all land plants. Here we review the unique biological characteristics of ferns and describe a number of outstanding questions in plant biology that will benefit from the addition of ferns to the set of taxa with sequenced nuclear genomes. We explain why the fern clade is pivotal for understanding genome evolution across land plants, and we provide a rationale for how knowledge of fern genomes will enable progress in research beyond the ferns themselves.
Genome sequencing with next-generation sequence (NGS) technologies can now be applied to organisms pivotal to addressing fundamental biological questions, but with genomes previously considered intractable or too expensive to undertake. However, for species with large and complex genomes, extensive genetic and physical map resources have, until now, been required to direct the sequencing effort and sequence assembly. As these resources are unavailable for most species, assembling high-quality genome sequences from NGS data remains challenging. We describe a strategy that uses NGS, fluorescence in situ hybridization, and whole-genome mapping to assemble a high-quality genome sequence for Amborella trichopoda, a nonmodel species crucial to understanding flowering plant evolution. These methods are applicable to many other organisms with limited genomic resources.
Orobanchaceae is the only plant family with members representing the full range of parasitic lifestyles plus a free-living lineage sister to all parasitic lineages, Lindenbergia. A generalist member of this family, and an important parasitic plant model, Triphysaria versicolor regularly feeds upon a wide range of host plants. Here, we compare de novo assembled transcriptomes generated from laser micro-dissected tissues at the host-parasite interface to uncover details of the largely uncharacterized interaction between parasitic plants and their hosts.
Sacred lotus is a basal eudicot with agricultural, medicinal, cultural and religious importance. It was domesticated in Asia about 7,000 years ago, and cultivated for its rhizomes and seeds as a food crop. It is particularly noted for its 1,300-year seed longevity and exceptional water repellency, known as the lotus effect. The latter property is due to the nanoscopic closely packed protuberances of its self-cleaning leaf surface, which have been adapted for the manufacture of a self-cleaning industrial paint, Lotusan.
Extreme haustorial parasites have long captured the interest of naturalists and scientists with their greatly reduced and highly specialized morphology. Along with the reduction or loss of photosynthesis, the plastid genome often decays as photosynthetic genes are released from selective constraint. This makes it challenging to use traditional plastid genes for parasitic plant phylogenetics, and has driven the search for alternative phylogenetic and molecular evolutionary markers. Thus, evolutionary studies, such as molecular clock-based age estimates, are not yet available for all parasitic lineages. In the present study, we extracted 14 nuclear single copy genes (nSCG) from Illumina transcriptome data from one of the "strangest plants in the world", Hydnora visseri (Hydnoraceae). A ?15,000 character molecular dataset, based on all three genomic compartments, shows the utility of nSCG for reconstructing phylogenetic relationships in parasitic lineages. A relaxed molecular clock approach with the same multi-locus dataset, revealed an ancient age of ?91 MYA for Hydnoraceae. We then estimated the stem ages of all independently originated parasitic angiosperm lineages using a published dataset, which also revealed a Cretaceous origin for Balanophoraceae, Cynomoriaceae and Apodanthaceae. With the exception of Santalales, older parasite lineages tend to be more specialized with respect to trophic level and have lower species diversity. We thus propose the "temporal specialization hypothesis" (TSH) implementing multiple independent specialization processes over time during parasitic angiosperm evolution.
Because of their phylogenetic position and unique characteristics of their biology and life cycle, ferns represent an important lineage for studying the evolution of land plants. Large and complex genomes in ferns combined with the absence of economically important species have been a barrier to the development of genomic resources. However, high throughput sequencing technologies are now being widely applied to non-model species. We leveraged the Roche 454 GS-FLX Titanium pyrosequencing platform in sequencing the gametophyte transcriptome of bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) to develop genomic resources for evolutionary studies.
Most of the publicly available data on chloroplast (plastid) genes and genomes come from seed plants, with relatively little information from their sister group, the ferns. Here we describe several broad evolutionary patterns and processes in fern plastid genomes (plastomes), and we include some new plastome sequence data. We review what we know about the evolutionary history of plastome structure across the fern phylogeny and we compare plastome organization and patterns of evolution in ferns to those in seed plants. A large clade of ferns is characterized by a plastome that has been reorganized with respect to the ancestral gene order (a similar order that is ancestral in seed plants). We review the sequence of inversions that gave rise to this organization. We also explore global nucleotide substitution patterns in ferns versus those found in seed plants across plastid genes, and we review the high levels of RNA editing observed in fern plastomes.
Bracken ferns (genus Pteridium) represent an ancient species complex with a natural worldwide distribution. Pteridium has historically been treated as comprising a single species, but recent treatments have recognized several related species. Phenotypic plasticity, geographically structured morphological variation, and geographically biased sampling have all contributed to taxonomic confusion in the genus. We sampled bracken specimens worldwide and used variable regions of the chloroplast genome to investigate phylogeography and reticulate evolution within the genus. Our results distinguish two major clades within Pteridium, a primarily northern hemisphere Laurasian/African clade, which includes all taxa currently assigned to P. aquilinum, and a primarily southern hemisphere Austral/South American clade, which includes P. esculentum and P. arachnoideum. All European accessions of P. aquilinum subsp. aquilinum appear in a monophyletic group and are nested within a clade containing the African P. aquilinum taxa (P. aquilinum subsp. capense and P. aquilinum subsp. centrali-africanum). Our results allow us to hypothesize the maternal progenitors of two allotetraploid bracken species, P. caudatum and P. semihastatum. We also discuss the biogeography of bracken in the context of the chloroplast phylogeny. Our study is one of the first to take a worldwide perspective in addressing variation in a broadly distributed species complex.
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