Whole genome and tandem duplicate retention facilitated glucosinolate pathway diversification in the mustard family

Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(11):2155-73. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt162.


Plants share a common history of successive whole-genome duplication (WGD) events retaining genomic patterns of duplicate gene copies (ohnologs) organized in conserved syntenic blocks. Duplication was often proposed to affect the origin of novel traits during evolution. However, genetic evidence linking WGD to pathway diversification is scarce. We show that WGD and tandem duplication (TD) accelerated genetic versatility of plant secondary metabolism, exemplified with the glucosinolate (GS) pathway in the mustard family. GS biosynthesis is a well-studied trait, employing at least 52 biosynthetic and regulatory genes in the model plant Arabidopsis. In a phylogenomics approach, we identified 67 GS loci in Aethionema arabicum of the tribe Aethionemae, sister group to all mustard family members. All but one of the Arabidopsis GS gene families evolved orthologs in Aethionema and all but one of the orthologous sequence pairs exhibit synteny. The 45% fraction of duplicates among all protein-coding genes in Arabidopsis was increased to 95% and 97% for Arabidopsis and Aethionema GS pathway inventory, respectively. Compared with the 22% average for all protein-coding genes in Arabidopsis, 52% and 56% of Aethionema and Arabidopsis GS loci align to ohnolog copies dating back to the last common WGD event. Although 15% of all Arabidopsis genes are organized in tandem arrays, 45% and 48% of GS loci in Arabidopsis and Aethionema descend from TD, respectively. We describe a sequential combination of TD and WGD events driving gene family extension, thereby expanding the evolutionary playground for functional diversification and thus potential novelty and success.

Keywords: Brassicaceae; comparative genomics; functional diversification; systems biology; whole-genome duplication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Genomic Structural Variation
  • Glucosinolates / biosynthesis*
  • Glucosinolates / genetics
  • Mustard Plant / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology
  • Synteny
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences*


  • Glucosinolates