Datura genome reveals duplications of psychoactive alkaloid biosynthetic genes and high mutation rate following tissue culture

BMC Genomics. 2021 Mar 22;22(1):201. doi: 10.1186/s12864-021-07489-2.


Background: Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed) is a medicinally and pharmaceutically important plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) known for its production of various toxic, hallucinogenic, and therapeutic tropane alkaloids. Recently, we published a tissue-culture based transformation protocol for D. stramonium that enables more thorough functional genomics studies of this plant. However, the tissue culture process can lead to undesirable phenotypic and genomic consequences independent of the transgene used. Here, we have assembled and annotated a draft genome of D. stramonium with a focus on tropane alkaloid biosynthetic genes. We then use mRNA sequencing and genome resequencing of transformants to characterize changes following tissue culture.

Results: Our draft assembly conforms to the expected 2 gigabasepair haploid genome size of this plant and achieved a BUSCO score of 94.7% complete, single-copy genes. The repetitive content of the genome is 61%, with Gypsy-type retrotransposons accounting for half of this. Our gene annotation estimates the number of protein-coding genes at 52,149 and shows evidence of duplications in two key alkaloid biosynthetic genes, tropinone reductase I and hyoscyamine 6 β-hydroxylase. Following tissue culture, we detected only 186 differentially expressed genes, but were unable to correlate these changes in expression with either polymorphisms from resequencing or positional effects of transposons.

Conclusions: We have assembled, annotated, and characterized the first draft genome for this important model plant species. Using this resource, we show duplications of genes leading to the synthesis of the medicinally important alkaloid, scopolamine. Our results also demonstrate that following tissue culture, mutation rates of transformed plants are quite high (1.16 × 10- 3 mutations per site), but do not have a drastic impact on gene expression.

Keywords: Alkaloids; Datura stramonium; Genome sequencing; Scopolamine; Tissue culture; Transformation; Transposable elements.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids*
  • Datura* / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Mutation Rate
  • Tropanes


  • Alkaloids
  • Tropanes