Dodders (Cuscuta spp., Convolvulaceae) are root- and leafless parasitic plants. The physiology, ecology, and evolution of these obligate parasites are poorly understood. A high-quality reference genome of Cuscuta australis was assembled. Our analyses reveal that Cuscuta experienced accelerated molecular evolution, and Cuscuta and the convolvulaceous morning glory (Ipomoea) shared a common whole-genome triplication event before their divergence. C. australis genome harbors 19,671 protein-coding genes, and importantly, 11.7% of the conserved orthologs in autotrophic plants are lost in C. australis. Many of these gene loss events likely result from its parasitic lifestyle and the massive changes of its body plan. Moreover, comparison of the gene expression patterns in Cuscuta prehaustoria/haustoria and various tissues of closely related autotrophic plants suggests that Cuscuta haustorium formation requires mostly genes normally involved in root development. The C. australis genome provides important resources for studying the evolution of parasitism, regressive evolution, and evo-devo in plant parasites.
Journal: Nature communications