How many genes are there in plants (... and why are they there)?

Annotation of the first few complete plant genomes has revealed that plants have many genes. For Arabidopsis, over 26,500 gene loci have been predicted, whereas for rice, the number adds up to 41,000. Recent analysis of the poplar genome suggests more than 45,000 genes, and partial sequence data from Medicago and Lotus also suggest that these plants contain more than 40,000 genes. Nevertheless, estimations suggest that ancestral angiosperms had no more than 12,000-14,000 genes. One explanation for the large increase in gene number during angiosperm evolution is gene duplication. It has been shown previously that the retention of duplicates following small- and large-scale duplication events in plants is substantial. Taking into account the function of genes that have been duplicated, we are now beginning to understand why many plant genes might have been retained, and how their retention might be linked to the typical lifestyle of plants.

Sterck, L., Rombauts, S., Vandepoele, K., Rouzé, P., Van de Peer, Y. (2007) How many genes are there in plants (... and why are they there)?. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 10(2):199-203.

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