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Pitchers of Nepenthes khasiana express several digestive-enzyme encoding genes, harbor mostly fungi and probably evolved through changes in the expression of leaf polarity genes [Next Gen Genomics Facility]

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TitlePitchers of Nepenthes khasiana express several digestive-enzyme encoding genes, harbor mostly fungi and probably evolved through changes in the expression of leaf polarity genes [Next Gen Genomics Facility]
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsDkhar J, Bhaskar YKumar, Lynn A, Pareek A
JournalBMC Plant Biol
Volume20
Issue1
Pagination524
Date Published2020 Nov 17
ISSN1471-2229
Abstract

BACKGROUND: A structural phenomenon seen in certain lineages of angiosperms that has captivated many scholars including Charles Darwin is the evolution of plant carnivory. Evidently, these structural features collectively termed carnivorous syndrome, evolved to aid nutritional acquisition from attracted, captured and digested prey. We now understand why plant carnivory evolved but how carnivorous plants acquired these attributes remains a mystery. In an attempt to understand the evolution of Nepenthes pitcher and to shed more light on its role in prey digestion, we analyzed the transcriptome data of the highly specialized Nepenthes khasiana leaf comprising the leaf base lamina, tendril and the different parts/zones of the pitcher tube viz. digestive zone, waxy zone and lid.

RESULTS: In total, we generated around 262 million high-quality Illumina reads. Reads were pooled, normalized and de novo assembled to generate a reference transcriptome of about 412,224 transcripts. We then estimated transcript abundance along the N. khasiana leaf by mapping individual reads from each part/zone to the reference transcriptome. Correlation-based hierarchical clustering analysis of 27,208 commonly expressed genes indicated functional relationship and similar cellular processes underlying the development of the leaf base and the pitcher, thereby implying that the Nepenthes pitcher is indeed a modified leaf. From a list of 2386 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), we identified transcripts encoding key enzymes involved in prey digestion and protection against pathogen attack, some of which are expressed at high levels in the digestive zone. Interestingly, many of these enzyme-encoding genes are also expressed in the unopened N. khasiana pitcher. Transcripts showing homology to both bacteria and fungi were also detected; and in the digestive zone, fungi are more predominant as compared to bacteria. Taking cues from histology and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) photomicrographs, we found altered expressions of key regulatory genes involved in leaf development. Of particular interest, the expression of class III HOMEODOMAIN-LEUCINE ZIPPER (HD-ZIPIII) and ARGONAUTE (AGO) genes were upregulated in the tendril.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that N. khasiana pitchers employ a wide range of enzymes for prey digestion and plant defense, harbor microbes and probably evolved through altered expression of leaf polarity genes.

DOI10.1186/s12870-020-02663-2
Alternate JournalBMC Plant Biol
PubMed ID33203377
PubMed Central IDPMC7672872