The genomic landscape of molecular responses to natural drought stress in Panicum hallii

John T. Lovell, Jerry Jenkins, David B. Lowry, Sujan Mamidi, Avinash Sreedasyam, Xiaoyu Weng, Kerrie Barry, Jason Bonnette, Brandon Campitelli, Chris Daum, Sean P. Gordon, Billie A. Gould, Albina Khasanova, Anna Lipzen, Alice MacQueen, Juan Diego Palacio-Mejía, Christopher Plott, Eugene V. Shakirov, Shengqiang Shu, Yuko YoshinagaMatt Zane, Dave Kudrna, Jason D. Talag, Daniel Rokhsar, Jane Grimwood, Jeremy Schmutz, Thomas E. Juenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Environmental stress is a major driver of ecological community dynamics and agricultural productivity. This is especially true for soil water availability, because drought is the greatest abiotic inhibitor of worldwide crop yields. Here, we test the genetic basis of drought responses in the genetic model for C4 perennial grasses, Panicum hallii, through population genomics, field-scale gene-expression (eQTL) analysis, and comparison of two complete genomes. While gene expression networks are dominated by local cis-regulatory elements, we observe three genomic hotspots of unlinked trans-regulatory loci. These regulatory hubs are four times more drought responsive than the genome-wide average. Additionally, cis- and trans-regulatory networks are more likely to have opposing effects than expected under neutral evolution, supporting a strong influence of compensatory evolution and stabilizing selection. These results implicate trans-regulatory evolution as a driver of drought responses and demonstrate the potential for crop improvement in drought-prone regions through modification of gene regulatory networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5213
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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