A comparative genomics examination of desiccation tolerance and sensitivity in two sister grass species

Ricardo A. Chávez Montes, Anna Haber, Jeremy Pardo, Robyn F. Powell, Upendra K. Divisetty, Anderson T. Silva, Tania Hernández-Hernández, Vanildo Silveira, Haibao Tang, Eric Lyons, Luis Rafael Herrera Estrella, Robert VanBuren, Melvin J. Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Desiccation tolerance is an ancient and complex trait that spans all major lineages of life on earth. Although important in the evolution of land plants, the mechanisms that underlay this complex trait are poorly understood, especially for vegetative desiccation tolerance (VDT). The lack of suitable closely related plant models that offer a direct contrast between desiccation tolerance and sensitivity has hampered progress. We have assembled high-quality genomes for two closely related grasses, the desiccation-tolerant Sporobolus stapfianus and the desiccation-sensitive Sporobolus pyramidalis. Both species are complex polyploids; S. stapfianus is primarily tetraploid, and S. pyramidalis is primarily hexaploid. S. pyramidalis undergoes a major transcriptome remodeling event during initial exposure to dehydration, while S. stapfianus has a muted early response, with peak remodeling during the transition between 1.5 and 1.0 grams of water (gH2O) g21 dry weight (dw). Functionally, the dehydration transcriptome of S. stapfianus is unrelated to that for S. pyramidalis. A comparative analysis of the transcriptomes of the hydrated controls for each species indicated that S. stapfianus is transcriptionally primed for desiccation. Cross-species comparative analyses indicated that VDT likely evolved from reprogramming of desiccation tolerance mechanisms that evolved in seeds and that the tolerance mechanism of S. stapfianus represents a recent evolution for VDT within the Chloridoideae. Orthogroup analyses of the significantly differentially abundant transcripts reconfirmed our present understanding of the response to dehydration, including the lack of an induction of senescence in resurrection angiosperms. The data also suggest that failure to maintain protein structure during dehydration is likely critical in rendering a plant desiccation sensitive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2118886119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • C4 grasses
  • Comparative genomics
  • Desiccation tolerance
  • Sister group contrast
  • Transcriptome remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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