Genome analysis of the ancient tracheophyte Selaginella tamariscina reveals evolutionary features relevant to the acquisition of desiccation tolerance.
Resurrection plants, which are the “gifts” of natural evolution, are ideal models for studying the genetic basis of plant desiccation tolerance. Here, we report a high-quality genome assembly of 301 Mb for the diploid spike moss Selaginella tamariscina, a primitive vascular resurrection plant. We predicated 27 761 protein-coding genes from the assembled S. tamariscina genome, 11.38% (2363) of which showed significant expression changes in response to desiccation. Approximately 60.58% of the S. tamariscina genome was annotated as repetitive DNA, which is an almost 2-fold increase of that in the genome of desiccation-sensitive Selaginella moellendorffii. Genomic and transcriptomic analyses highlight the unique evolution and complex regulations of the desiccation response in S. tamariscina, including species-specific expansion of the oleosin and pentatricopeptide repeat gene families, unique genes and pathways for reactive oxygen species generation and scavenging, and enhanced abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis and potentially distinct regulation of ABA signaling and response. Comparative analysis of chloroplast genomes of several Selaginella species revealed a unique structural rearrangement and the complete loss of chloroplast NAD(P)H dehydrogenase (NDH) genes in S. tamariscina, suggesting a link between the absence of the NDH complex and desiccation tolerance. Taken together, our comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses reveal common and species-specific desiccation tolerance strategies in S. tamariscina, providing significant insights into the desiccation tolerance mechanism and the evolution of resurrection plants. Copyright © 2018 The Author. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.