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Plant Tolerance

Researchers have teased out some of the genes that drought-resistant plants rely on, the Independent reports.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers sequenced the genome and analyzed the transcriptome of Kalanchoë fedtschenkoi, a plant that relies on crassulacean acid metabolism. CAM metabolism, a photosynthetic CO2 fixation approach that uses water more efficiently, has evolved independent in a number of flowering plants.

As the Oak Ridge researchers report in Nature Communications, they then conducted convergent evolution studies — comparing K. fedtschenkoi to other CAM plants — to tease out how CAM arose in different plants. In particular, they uncovered 60 genes that showed convergent evolution as well as protein sequence convergence in six genes involved in processes related to photosynthesis like nocturnal CO2 fixation and circadian rhythm.

The researchers note that their findings could help guide bioengineering of plants to make them more tolerant to drought conditions. "These convergent changes in gene expression and protein sequences could be introduced into plants that rely on traditional photosynthesis, accelerating their evolution to become more water-use efficient," first author Xiaohan Yang from Oak Ridge tells the Independent.