Tracing 100 million years of grass genome evolutionary plasticity

Plant J. 2023 Jun;114(6):1243-1266. doi: 10.1111/tpj.16185. Epub 2023 Apr 25.


Grasses derive from a family of monocotyledonous plants that includes crops of major economic importance such as wheat, rice, sorghum and barley, sharing a common ancestor some 100 million years ago. The genomic attributes of plant adaptation remain obscure and the consequences of recurrent whole genome duplications (WGD) or polyploidization events, a major force in plant evolution, remain largely speculative. We conducted a comparative analysis of omics data from ten grass species to unveil structural (inversions, fusions, fissions, duplications, substitutions) and regulatory (expression and methylation) basis of genome plasticity, as possible attributes of plant long lasting evolution and adaptation. The present study demonstrates that diverged polyploid lineages sharing a common WGD event often present the same patterns of structural changes and evolutionary dynamics, but these patterns are difficult to generalize across independent WGD events as a result of non-WGD factors such as selection and domestication of crops. Polyploidy is unequivocally linked to the evolutionary success of grasses during the past 100 million years, although it remains difficult to attribute this success to particular genomic consequences of polyploidization, suggesting that polyploids harness the potential of genome duplication, at least partially, in lineage-specific ways. Overall, the present study clearly demonstrates that post-polyploidization reprogramming is more complex than traditionally reported in investigating single species and calls for a critical and comprehensive comparison across independently polyploidized lineages.

Keywords: ancestor; evolution; grasses; paleogenomics.

MeSH terms

  • Edible Grain / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genome, Plant* / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Poaceae* / genetics
  • Polyploidy