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  1. Abstract

    Desiccation tolerance evolved recurrently across diverse plant lineages to enable survival in water-limited conditions. Many resurrection plants are polyploid, and several groups have hypothesized that polyploidy contributed to the evolution of desiccation tolerance. However, due to the vast phylogenetic distance between resurrection plant lineages, the rarity of desiccation tolerance, and the prevalence of polyploidy in plants, this hypothesis has been difficult to test. Here, we surveyed natural variation in morphological, reproductive, and desiccation tolerance traits across several cytotypes of a single species to test for links between polyploidy and increased resilience. We sampled multiple natural populations of the resurrection grass Microchloa caffra across an environmental gradient ranging from mesic to xeric in South Africa. We describe two distinct ecotypes of M. caffra that occupy different extremes of the environmental gradient and exhibit consistent differences in ploidy, morphological, reproductive, and desiccation tolerance traits in both field and common growth conditions. Interestingly, plants with more polyploid genomes exhibited consistently higher recovery from desiccation, were less reproductive, and were larger than plants with smaller genomes and lower ploidy. These data indicate that selective pressures in increasingly xeric sites may play a role in maintaining and increasing desiccation tolerance and are mediated by changes in ploidy.

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  2. Bomblies, K (Ed.)
    The gene balance hypothesis proposes that selection acts on the dosage (i.e. copy number) of genes within dosage-sensitive portions of networks, pathways, and protein complexes to maintain balanced stoichiometry of interacting proteins, because perturbations to stoichiometric balance can result in reduced fitness. This selection has been called dosage balance selection. Dosage balance selection is also hypothesized to constrain expression responses to dosage changes, making dosage-sensitive genes (those encoding members of interacting proteins) experience more similar expression changes. In allopolyploids, where whole-genome duplication involves hybridization of diverged lineages, organisms often experience homoeologous exchanges that recombine, duplicate, and delete homoeologous regions of the genome and alter the expression of homoeologous gene pairs. Although the gene balance hypothesis makes predictions about the expression response to homoeologous exchanges, they have not been empirically tested. We used genomic and transcriptomic data from 6 resynthesized, isogenic Brassica napus lines over 10 generations to identify homoeologous exchanges, analyzed expression responses, and tested for patterns of genomic imbalance. Groups of dosage-sensitive genes had less variable expression responses to homoeologous exchanges than dosage-insensitive genes, a sign that their relative dosage is constrained. This difference was absent for homoeologous pairs whose expression was biased toward the B. napus A subgenome. Finally, the expression response to homoeologous exchanges was more variable than the response to whole-genome duplication, suggesting homoeologous exchanges create genomic imbalance. These findings expand our knowledge of the impact of dosage balance selection on genome evolution and potentially connect patterns in polyploid genomes over time, from homoeolog expression bias to duplicate gene retention.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 20, 2024
  3. The field of plant science has grown dramatically in the past two decades, but global disparities and systemic inequalities persist. Here, we analyzed ~300,000 papers published over the past two decades to quantify disparities across nations, genders, and taxonomy in the plant science literature. Our analyses reveal striking geographical biases—affluent nations dominate the publishing landscape and vast areas of the globe have virtually no footprint in the literature. Authors in Northern America are cited nearly twice as many times as authors based in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, despite publishing in journals with similar impact factors. Gender imbalances are similarly stark and show remarkably little improvement over time. Some of the most affluent nations have extremely male biased publication records, despite supposed improvements in gender equality. In addition, we find that most studies focus on economically important crop and model species, and a wealth of biodiversity is underrepresented in the literature. Taken together, our analyses reveal a problematic system of publication, with persistent imbalances that poorly capture the global wealth of scientific knowledge and biological diversity. We conclude by highlighting disparities that can be addressed immediately and offer suggestions for long-term solutions to improve equity in the plant sciences. 
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  4. 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. 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. 
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  5. Abstract Grasslands dominate the terrestrial landscape, and grasses have evolved complex and elegant strategies to overcome abiotic stresses. The C4 grasses are particularly stress tolerant and thrive in tropical and dry temperate ecosystems. Growing evidence suggests that the presence of C4 photosynthesis alone is insufficient to account for drought resilience in grasses, pointing to other adaptations as contributing to tolerance traits. The majority of grasses from the Chloridoideae subfamily are tolerant to drought, salt, and desiccation, making this subfamily a hub of resilience. Here, we discuss the evolutionary innovations that make C4 grasses so resilient, with a particular emphasis on grasses from the Chloridoideae (chloridoid) and Panicoideae (panicoid) subfamilies. We propose that a baseline level of resilience in chloridoid ancestors allowed them to colonize harsh habitats, and these environments drove selective pressure that enabled the repeated evolution of abiotic stress tolerance traits. Furthermore, we suggest that a lack of evolutionary access to stressful environments is partially responsible for the relatively poor stress resilience of major C4 crops compared to their wild relatives. We propose that chloridoid crops and the subfamily more broadly represent an untapped reservoir for improving resilience to drought and other abiotic stresses in cereals. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Abstract

    The field of plant genome sequencing has grown rapidly in the past 20 years, leading to increases in the quantity and quality of publicly available genomic resources. The growing wealth of genomic data from an increasingly diverse set of taxa provides unprecedented potential to better understand the genome biology and evolution of land plants. Here we provide a contemporary view of land plant genomics, including analyses on assembly quality, taxonomic distribution of sequenced species and national participation. We show that assembly quality has increased dramatically in recent years, that substantial taxonomic gaps exist and that the field has been dominated by affluent nations in the Global North and China, despite a wide geographic distribution of study species. We identify numerous disconnects between the native range of focal species and the national affiliation of the researchers studying them, which we argue are rooted in colonialism—both past and present. Luckily, falling sequencing costs, widening availability of analytical tools and an increasingly connected scientific community provide key opportunities to improve existing assemblies, fill sampling gaps and empower a more global plant genomics community.

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  8. Desiccation tolerance is an ancient and complex trait that spans all major lineages of life on earth. Although important in the evolution of land plants, the mechanisms that underlay this complex trait are poorly understood, especially for vegetative desiccation tolerance (VDT). The lack of suitable closely related plant models that offer a direct contrast between desiccation tolerance and sensitivity has hampered progress. We have assembled high-quality genomes for two closely related grasses, the desiccation-tolerant Sporobolus stapfianus and the desiccation-sensitive Sporobolus pyramidalis . Both species are complex polyploids; S. stapfianus is primarily tetraploid, and S. pyramidalis is primarily hexaploid. S. pyramidalis undergoes a major transcriptome remodeling event during initial exposure to dehydration, while S. stapfianus has a muted early response, with peak remodeling during the transition between 1.5 and 1.0 grams of water (gH 2 O) g −1 dry weight (dw). Functionally, the dehydration transcriptome of S. stapfianus is unrelated to that for S. pyramidalis . A comparative analysis of the transcriptomes of the hydrated controls for each species indicated that S. stapfianus is transcriptionally primed for desiccation. Cross-species comparative analyses indicated that VDT likely evolved from reprogramming of desiccation tolerance mechanisms that evolved in seeds and that the tolerance mechanism of S. stapfianus represents a recent evolution for VDT within the Chloridoideae. Orthogroup analyses of the significantly differentially abundant transcripts reconfirmed our present understanding of the response to dehydration, including the lack of an induction of senescence in resurrection angiosperms. The data also suggest that failure to maintain protein structure during dehydration is likely critical in rendering a plant desiccation sensitive. 
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  9. null (Ed.)