The carnivorous bladderwort (Utricularia, Lentibulariaceae): a system inflates

J Exp Bot. 2010;61(1):5-9. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp349.


Carnivorous plants inhabit nutrient-poor environments, where prominent targets of prey capture are organic nitrogen and phosphorus. Some carnivorous plants also acquire carbon from their victims. A new report focusing on Utricularia, the bladderwort, demonstrates that carbon assimilated from photosynthesis is paradoxically secreted into the trapping environment, where it may help to support a mutualistic bacterial community. This bacterial community may also secrete allelochemicals that attract microcrustaceans which bear a strong overt resemblance to bladderwort traps. Furthermore, Utricularia and its sister genus Genlisea share anomalous molecular evolutionary features, such as highly increased rates of nucleotide substitution and dynamic evolution of genome size, from approximately 60-1500 megabases depending on the species or even population. A mechanistic hypothesis, based on the mutagenic action of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is proposed to underlie these phenomena, involving error-prone repair at the level of DNA bases and double-strand breaks. It is argued that these plants are prime candidates for further research on the complexities of plant physiology associated with carnivory, metagenomic surveys of trap microbial communities, novel plant nitrogen/nutrient utilization pathways, the ecology of prey attraction, whole-plant and trap comparative development, and, finally, evolution of the minimal angiosperm genome.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Lamiaceae / genetics
  • Lamiaceae / microbiology
  • Lamiaceae / physiology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA