C3 cotyledons are followed by C4 leaves: intra-individual transcriptome analysis of Salsola soda (Chenopodiaceae)

J Exp Bot. 2017 Jan;68(2):161-176. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw343. Epub 2016 Sep 22.


Some species of Salsoleae (Chenopodiaceae) convert from C3 photosynthesis during the seedling stage to the C4 pathway in adult leaves. This unique developmental transition of photosynthetic pathways offers the exceptional opportunity to follow the development of the derived C4 syndrome from the C3 condition within individual plants, avoiding phylogenetic noise. Here we investigate Salsola soda, a little-studied species from tribe Salsoleae, using an ontogenetic approach. Anatomical sections, carbon isotope (δ13C) values, transcriptome analysis by means of mRNA sequencing, and protein levels of the key C4 enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) were examined from seed to adult plant stages. Despite a previous report, our results based on δ13C values, anatomy and transcriptomics clearly indicate a C3 phase during the cotyledon stage. During this stage, the entire transcriptional repertoire of the C4 NADP-malic enzyme type is detected at low levels compared to a significant increase in true leaves. In contrast, abundance of transcripts encoding most of the major photorespiratory enzymes is not significantly decreased in leaves compared to cotyledons. PEPC polypeptide was detected only in leaves, correlating with increased PEPC transcript abundance from the cotyledon to leaf stage.

Keywords: Salsola; C4 photosynthesis; Caryophyllales; Chenopodiaceae; RNA seq; cotyledon; development; leaf; transcriptome..

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Isotopes / metabolism
  • Cotyledon / anatomy & histology
  • Cotyledon / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Salsola / anatomy & histology
  • Salsola / growth & development
  • Salsola / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome


  • Carbon Isotopes