Newswise — As water scarcity looms as a major threat to global ecosystems and food production, the quest to understand how plants like Cissus quadrangularis conquer arid landscapes is more critical than ever. The genetic blueprint of such species could hold the key to enhancing agricultural resilience in the face of climate change.

A new study (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae038), the result of a collaborative international effort, has been published in Horticulture Research on February 2, 2024. The research presents an in-depth analysis of the Cissus quadrangularis genome, shedding light on its extraordinary drought tolerance and distinctive photosynthetic mechanisms.

The meticulous mapping of Cissus quadrangularis‘s genome has uncovered a tapestry of genetic adaptations that allow it to thrive in desert conditions. The 679.2 Mb genome, rich with 51,857 protein-coding genes, reveals that nearly half is composed of repetitive sequences, highlighting the genetic complexity of polyploidy. The dominant sub-A genome stands out, with its robust gene expression during drought, pointing to a pivotal role in the plant’s survival strategy. The study also spotlights the activation of key metabolic pathways in the stem, pivotal for water conservation. The distinct diurnal gene expression in the stems, in contrast to the leaves, underscores a specialized evolutionary adaptation, providing profound insights into Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis and its role in arid adaptability.

Dr. Qingyun Li, the lead scientist on the project, remarks, “Our work with Cissus quadrangularis exemplifies the transformative potential of genomics. The genetic insights we’ve uncovered are a beacon for developing crops that can endure the increasing aridity, offering a ray of hope for sustainable agriculture.”

The insights gleaned from Cissus quadrangularis‘s genome are set to revolutionize crop breeding, steering towards varieties that can withstand water scarcity. By integrating the CAM pathway and the plant’s drought-tolerance genes, the agricultural sector can advance towards more resilient harvests, safeguarding food supplies in arid climates.





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Funding information

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (31961143026) and Scientific Research Program of Sino-Africa Joint Research Center (SAJC201614, SAJL201607 and SAJC202101).

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.