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  1. Many desiccation-tolerant plants are widely distributed and exposed to substantial environmental variation across their native range. These environmental differences generate site-specific selective pressures that could drive natural variation in desiccation tolerance across populations. If identified, such natural variation can be used to target tolerance-enhancing characteristics and identify trait associations within a common genetic background. Here, we tested for natural variation in desiccation tolerance across wild populations of the South African resurrection plant Myrothamnus flabellifolia. We surveyed a suite of functional traits related to desiccation tolerance, leaf economics, and reproductive allocation in M. flabellifolia to test for trait associations and tradeoffs.more »Despite considerable environmental variation across the study area, M. flabellifolia plants were extremely desiccation tolerant at all sites, suggesting that tolerance is either maintained by selection or fixed in these populations. However, we detected notable associations between environmental variation, population characteristics, and fitness traits. Relative to mesic sites, plants in xeric sites were more abundant and larger, but were slower growing and less reproductive. The negative association between growth and reproduction with plant size and abundance pointed towards a potential growth–abundance tradeoff. The finding that M. flabellifolia is more common in xeric sites despite reductions in growth rate and reproduction suggests that these plants thrive in extreme aridity.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  2. Resurrection plants have an extraordinary ability to survive extreme water loss but still revive full metabolic activity when rehydrated. These plants are useful models to understand the complex biology of vegetative desiccation tolerance. Despite extensive studies of resurrection plants, many details underlying the mechanisms of desiccation tolerance remain unexplored. To summarize the progress in resurrection plant research and identify unexplored questions, we conducted a systematic review of 15 model angiosperm resurrection plants. This systematic review provides an overview of publication trends on resurrection plants, the geographical distribution of species and studies, and the methodology used. Using the Preferred Reporting Itemsmore »for Systematic reviews and Meta–Analyses protocol we surveyed all publications on resurrection plants from 2000 and 2020. This yielded 185 empirical articles that matched our selection criteria. The most investigated plants were Craterostigma plantagineum (17.5%), Haberlea rhodopensis (13.7%), Xerophyta viscosa (reclassified as X. schlechteri) (11.9%), Myrothamnus flabellifolia (8.5%), and Boea hygrometrica (8.1%), with all other species accounting for less than 8% of publications. The majority of studies have been conducted in South Africa, Bulgaria, Germany, and China, but there are contributions from across the globe. Most studies were led by researchers working within the native range of the focal species, but some international and collaborative studies were also identified. The number of annual publications fluctuated, with a large but temporary increase in 2008. Many studies have employed physiological and transcriptomic methodologies to investigate the leaves of resurrection plants, but there was a paucity of studies on roots and only one metagenomic study was recovered. Based on these findings we suggest that future research focuses on resurrection plant roots and microbiome interactions to explore microbial communities associated with these plants, and their role in vegetative desiccation tolerance.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Grasses are among the most resilient plants, and some can survive prolonged desiccation in semiarid regions with seasonal rainfall. However, the genetic elements that distinguish grasses that are sensitive versus tolerant to extreme drying are largely unknown. Here, we leveraged comparative genomic approaches with the desiccation-tolerant grass Eragrostis nindensis and the related desiccation-sensitive cereal Eragrostis tef to identify changes underlying desiccation tolerance. These analyses were extended across C4 grasses and cereals to identify broader evolutionary conservation and divergence. Across diverse genomic datasets, we identified changes in chromatin architecture, methylation, gene duplications, and expression dynamics related to desiccation in E. nindensismore ». It was previously hypothesized that transcriptional rewiring of seed desiccation pathways confers vegetative desiccation tolerance. Here, we demonstrate that the majority of seed-dehydration–related genes showed similar expression patterns in leaves of both desiccation-tolerant and -sensitive species. However, we identified a small set of seed-related orthologs with expression specific to desiccation-tolerant species. This supports a broad role for seed-related genes, where many are involved in typical drought responses, with only a small subset of crucial genes specifically induced in desiccation-tolerant plants.« less