A parasitic lifestyle, where plants procure some or all of their nutrients from other living plants, has evolved independently in many dicotyledonous plant families and is a major threat for agriculture globally. Nevertheless, no genome sequence of a parasitic plant has been reported to date. Here we describe the genome sequence of the parasitic field dodder, Cuscuta campestris. The genome contains signatures of a fairly recent whole-genome duplication and lacks genes for pathways superfluous to a parasitic lifestyle. Specifically, genes needed for high photosynthetic activity are lost, explaining the low photosynthesis rates displayed by the parasite. Moreover, several genes involved in nutrient uptake processes from the soil are lost. On the other hand, evidence for horizontal gene transfer by way of genomic DNA integration from the parasite's hosts is found. We conclude that the parasitic lifestyle has left characteristic footprints in the C. campestris genome.
Journal: Nature communications