Exploring the Possible Role of Hybridization in the Evolution of Photosynthetic Pathways in Flaveria (Asteraceae), the Prime Model of C4 Photosynthesis Evolution
Keywords:C3-C4 intermediates, C4 photosynthesis evolution, Hybridization, Reticulate evolution, Species network analysis
Flaveria (Asteraceae) is the prime model for the study of C4 photosynthesis evolution and seems to support a stepwise acquisition of the pathway through C3-C4 intermediate phenotypes, still existing in Flaveria today. Molecular phylogenies of Flaveria based on concatenated data matrices are currently used to reconstruct the complex sequence of trait shifts during C4 evolution. To assess the possible role of hybridization in C4 evolution in Flaveria, we re-analyzed transcriptome data of 17 Flaveria species to infer the extent of gene tree discordance and possible reticulation events. We found massive gene tree discordance as well as reticulation along the backbone and within clades containing C3-C4 intermediate and C4-like species. An early hybridization event between two C3 species might have triggered C4 evolution in the genus. The clade containing all C4 species plus the C4-like species F. vaginata and F. palmeri is highly supported in our phylogenetic analyses, but it might be of hybrid origin involving F. angustifolia and F. sonorensis (both C3-C4 intermediate) as parental lineages. Hybridization seems to be a driver of C4 evolution in Flaveria and likely promoted the fast acquisition of C4 traits. This new insight can be used in further exploring C4 evolution and can inform C4 bioengineering efforts.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Diego F. Morales-Briones, Gudrun Kadereit
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