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Title: Comparative transcriptomics of tropical woody plants supports fast and furious strategy along the leaf economics spectrum in lianas

Lianas, climbing woody plants, influence the structure and function of tropical forests. Climbing traits have evolved multiple times, including ancestral groups such as gymnosperms and pteridophytes, but the genetic basis of the liana strategy is largely unknown. Here, we use a comparative transcriptomic approach for 47 tropical plant species, including ten lianas of diverse taxonomic origins, to identify genes that are consistently expressed or downregulated only in lianas. Our comparative analysis of full-length transcripts enabled the identification of a core interactomic network common to lianas. Sets of transcripts identified from our analysis reveal features related to functional traits pertinent to leaf economics spectrum in lianas, include upregulation of genes controlling epidermal cuticular properties, cell wall remodeling, carbon concentrating mechanism, cell cycle progression, DNA repair and a large suit of downregulated transcription factors and enzymes involved in ABA-mediated stress response as well as lignin and suberin synthesis. All together, these genes are known to be significant in shaping plant morphologies through responses such as gravitropism, phyllotaxy and shade avoidance.

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Biology Open
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Biology Open
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Baseline runs successfully reproduced ecosystem gas exchange fluxes (gross primary productivity and latent heat) and forest structural features (leaf area index, aboveground biomass) in two sites (Barro Colorado Island, Panama and Paracou, French Guiana) characterized by different rainfall regimes and levels of liana abundance.

    Model uncertainty analyses revealed that water limitation was the factor driving the competition between trees and lianas at the drier site (BCI), and during the relatively short dry season of the wetter site (Paracou). In young patches, light competition dominated in Paracou but alternated with water competition between the wet and the dry season on BCI according to the model simulations.

    The modelling workflow also identified key liana traits (photosynthetic quantum efficiency, stomatal regulation parameters, allometric relationships) and processes (water use, respiration, climbing) driving the model uncertainty. They should be considered as priorities for future data acquisition and model development to improve predictions of the carbon dynamics of liana‐infested forests.

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