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  1. Deregulating the shikimate pathway markedly increases aromatic amino acid production and carbon fixation in Arabidopsis.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 10, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  3. Growing knowledge about crop domestication, combined with increasingly powerful gene-editing toolkits, sets the stage for the continual domestication of crop wild relatives and other lesser-known plant species.
  4. Tremendous chemical diversity is the hallmark of plants and is supported by highly complex biochemical machinery. Plant metabolic enzymes originated and were transferred from eukaryotic and prokaryotic ancestors and further diversified by the unprecedented rates of gene duplication and functionalization experienced in land plants. Unlike microbes, which have frequent horizontal gene transfer events and multiple inputs of energy and organic carbon, land plants predominantly rely on organic carbon generated from CO 2 and have experienced very few, if any, gene transfers during their recent evolutionary history. As such, plant metabolic networks have evolved in a stepwise manner and on existing networks under various evolutionary constraints. This review aims to take a broader view of plant metabolic evolution and lay a framework to further explore underlying evolutionary mechanisms of the complex metabolic network. Understanding the underlying metabolic and genetic constraints is also an empirical prerequisite for rational engineering and redesigning of plant metabolic pathways. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Plant Biology, Volume 72 is May 2021. Please see for revised estimates.
  5. Abiotic stresses reduce crop growth and yield in part by disrupting metabolic homeostasis and triggering responses that change the metabolome. Experiments designed to understand the mechanisms underlying these metabolomic responses have usually not used agriculturally relevant stress regimes. We therefore subjected maize plants to drought, salt, or heat stresses that mimic field conditions and analyzed leaf responses at metabolome and transcriptome levels. Shared features of stress metabolomes included synthesis of raffinose, a compatible solute implicated in tolerance to dehydration. In addition, a marked accumulation of amino acids including proline, arginine, and γ-aminobutyrate combined with depletion of key glycolysis and tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates indicated a shift in balance of carbon and nitrogen metabolism in stressed leaves. Involvement of the γ-aminobutyrate shunt in this process is consistent with its previously proposed role as a workaround for stress-induced thiamin-deficiency. Although convergent metabolome shifts were correlated with gene expression changes in affected pathways, patterns of differential gene regulation induced by the three stresses indicated distinct signaling mechanisms highlighting the plasticity of plant metabolic responses to abiotic stress.
  6. INTRODUCTION During the independent process of cereal evolution, many trait shifts appear to have been under convergent selection to meet the specific needs of humans. Identification of convergently selected genes across cereals could help to clarify the evolution of crop species and to accelerate breeding programs. In the past several decades, researchers have debated whether convergent phenotypic selection in distinct lineages is driven by conserved molecular changes or by diverse molecular pathways. Two of the most economically important crops, maize and rice, display some conserved phenotypic shifts—including loss of seed dispersal, decreased seed dormancy, and increased grain number during evolution—even though they experienced independent selection. Hence, maize and rice can serve as an excellent system for understanding the extent of convergent selection among cereals. RATIONALE Despite the identification of a few convergently selected genes, our understanding of the extent of molecular convergence on a genome-wide scale between maize and rice is very limited. To learn how often selection acts on orthologous genes, we investigated the functions and molecular evolution of the grain yield quantitative trait locus KRN2 in maize and its rice ortholog OsKRN2 . We also identified convergently selected genes on a genome-wide scale in maize and rice, usingmore »two large datasets. RESULTS We identified a selected gene, KRN2 ( kernel row number2 ), that differs between domesticated maize and its wild ancestor, teosinte. This gene underlies a major quantitative trait locus for kernel row number in maize. Selection in the noncoding upstream regions resulted in a reduction of KRN2 expression and an increased grain number through an increase in kernel rows. The rice ortholog, OsKRN2 , also underwent selection and negatively regulates grain number via control of secondary panicle branches. These orthologs encode WD40 proteins and function synergistically with a gene of unknown function, DUF1644, which suggests that a conserved protein interaction controls grain number in maize and rice. Field tests show that knockout of KRN2 in maize or OsKRN2 in rice increased grain yield by ~10% and ~8%, respectively, with no apparent trade-off in other agronomic traits. This suggests potential applications of KRN2 and its orthologs for crop improvement. On a genome-wide scale, we identified a set of 490 orthologous genes that underwent convergent selection during maize and rice evolution, including KRN2/OsKRN2 . We found that the convergently selected orthologous genes appear to be significantly enriched in two specific pathways in both maize and rice: starch and sucrose metabolism, and biosynthesis of cofactors. A deep analysis of convergently selected genes in the starch metabolic pathway indicates that the degree of genetic convergence via convergent selection is related to the conservation and complexity of the gene network for a given selection. CONCLUSION Our findings show that common phenotypic shifts during maize and rice evolution acting on conserved genes are driven at least in part by convergent selection, which in maize and rice likely occurred both during and after domestication. We provide evolutionary and functional evidence on the convergent selection of KRN2/OsKRN2 for grain number between maize and rice. We further found that a complete loss-of-function allele of KRN2/OsKRN2 increased grain yield without an apparent negative impact on other agronomic traits. Exploring the role of KRN2/OsKRN2 and other convergently selected genes across the cereals could provide new opportunities to enhance the production of other global crops. Shared selected orthologous genes in maize and rice for convergent phenotypic shifts during domestication and improvement. By comparing 3163 selected genes in maize and 18,755 selected genes in rice, we identified 490 orthologous gene pairs, including KRN2 and its rice ortholog OsKRN2 , as having been convergently selected. Knockout of KRN2 in maize or OsKRN2 in rice increased grain yield by increasing kernel rows and secondary panicle branches, respectively.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 25, 2023
  7. The emergence of type III polyketide synthases (PKSs) was a prerequisite for the conquest of land by the green lineage.Within the PKS superfamily, chalcone synthases (CHSs) provide the entry point reaction to the flavonoid pathway, while LESS ADHESIVE POLLEN 5 and 6 (LAP5/6) provide constituents of the outer exine pollen wall. To study the deep evolutionary history of this key family, we conducted phylogenomic synteny network and phylogenetic analyses of whole-genome data from 126 species spanning the green lineage including Arabidopsis thaliana, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum),and maize (Zea mays). This study thereby combined study of genomic location and context with changes in gene sequen-ces. We found that the two major clades, CHS and LAP5/6 homologs, evolved early by a segmental duplication event priorto the divergence of Bryophytes and Tracheophytes. We propose that the macroevolution of the type III PKS superfamily isgoverned by whole-genome duplications and triplications. The combined phylogenetic and synteny analyses in this studyprovide insights into changes in the genomic location and context that are retained for a longer time scale with more re-cent functional divergence captured by gene sequence alterations.
  8. Fruit flavor is defined as the perception of the food by the olfactory and gustatory systems, and is one of the main determinants of fruit quality. Tomato flavor is largely determined by the balance of sugars, acids and volatile compounds. Several genes controlling the levels of these metabolites in tomato fruit have been cloned, including LIN5 , ALMT9 , AAT1 , CXE1 , and LoxC . The aim of this study was to identify any association of these genes with trait variation and to describe the genetic diversity at these loci in the red-fruited tomato clade comprised of the wild ancestor Solanum pimpinellifolium , the semi-domesticated species Solanum lycopersicum cerasiforme and early domesticated Solanum lycopersicum . High genetic diversity was observed at these five loci, including novel haplotypes that could be incorporated into breeding programs to improve fruit quality of modern tomatoes. Using newly available high-quality genome assemblies, we assayed each gene for potential functional causative polymorphisms and resolved a duplication at the LoxC locus found in several wild and semi-domesticated accessions which caused lower accumulation of lipid derived volatiles. In addition, we explored gene expression of the five genes in nine phylogenetically diverse tomato accessions. In general, the expressionmore »patterns of these genes increased during fruit ripening but diverged between accessions without clear relationship between expression and metabolite levels.« less