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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Plant organ evolution revealed by phylotranscriptomics in Arabidopsis thaliana


The evolution of phenotypes occurs through changes both in protein sequence and gene expression levels. Though much of plant morphological evolution can be explained by changes in gene expression, examining its evolution has challenges. To gain a new perspective on organ evolution in plants, we applied a phylotranscriptomics approach. We combined a phylostratigraphic approach with gene expression based on the strand-specific RNA-seq data from seedling, floral bud, and root of 19 Arabidopsis thaliana accessions to examine the age and sequence divergence of transcriptomes from these organs and how they adapted over time. Our results indicate that, among the sense and antisense transcriptomes of these organs, the sense transcriptomes of seedlings are the evolutionarily oldest across all accessions and are the most conserved in amino acid sequence for most accessions. In contrast, among the sense transcriptomes from these same organs, those from floral bud are evolutionarily youngest and least conserved in sequence for most accessions. Different organs have adaptive peaks at different stages in their evolutionary history; however, all three show a common adaptive signal from the Magnoliophyta to Brassicale stage. Our research highlights how phylotranscriptomic analyses can be used to trace organ evolution in the deep history of plant species.

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