In Nature this week, an international research team publishes the first high-quality reference genome for quinoa. They specifically sequenced the genome of a Chilean coastal variety of quinoa along with the genomes of additional Chenopodium species to better understand the crop's genetic diversity and genomic evolution. They also analyzed their data to identify a gene that regulates the production of saponins, a bitter-tasting molecule that is found in the quinoa seed shell that is removed before human consumption. The findings provide a starting point for developing different varieties of quinoa with reduced saponin levels and other desired agronomic traits.
And in Nature Ecology & Evolution, collaborators from the US, Japan, and China report the full genome sequence of the Australian pitcher plant Cephalotus follicularis, providing insights into how carnivorous plants evolved the capacity to digest their prey. After sequencing the C. follcularis' genome, the team compared the expression patterns of its carnivorous and non-carnivorous leaves to uncover different adaptations related to prey attraction, capture, and digestion. They also compared the digestive fluids of the plant's carnivorous leaves with those of other distantly related carnivorous plants, finding that genes associated stress responses in other plants are repurposed to act as digestive fluid proteins in the carnivorous plants. Notably, the same combinations of proteins and amino acids impart digestive ability to all the carnivorous plants studies, suggesting that carnivory independently evolved multiple times across species. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.