Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

Deciphering Stress-Resilient Growth in Brassicaceae Models: A Comparative Genomics Analysis of Adaptative on to Extreme Environments

Authors:

Pramod Pantha1*, Samadhi Wimalagunasekara1, Thu Thi Nguyen1, Richard Garcia1, Maheshi Dassanayake1, José Dinneny2

Institutions:

1Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University; 2Stanford University

Abstract

Understanding how plants adapt to extreme environments is pivotal for designing novel biofuel crops that avoid competition with conventional food crops and thrive in marginal lands. Researchers’ previous studies using extremophyte models in Brassicaceae have suggested a balance among the regulation of salt and water transport, uninterrupted nutrient acquisition, and the capacity to maintain antioxidant and osmolyte pools play critical roles in surviving environmental stresses, including high salinity, compared to their stress-sensitive sister species. The group expanded its search to include multiple emerging biofuel crops and extremophyte models to test for convergent genomic and transcriptomic features to identify evolutionary strategies preferentially found in plants that are adapted to multiple environmental stresses. Researchers found gene family expansion and positive selection for genes known for their salt responses.

Additionally, the team tested selected candidate genes that were expanded in extremophytes and found evidence for gene subfunctionalization in the extremophyte model, Schrenkiella parvula. The results of this research highlight repeated evolutionary innovations in diverse Brassicaceae species that may allow scientists to select genes and pathways that are optimal candidates for improving stress tolerance in diverse biofuel crops better adapted to extreme and changing climates.