Journey through the past: 150 million years of plant genome evolution

The genome sequence of the plant model organism Arabidopsis thaliana was presented in December of the year 2000. Since then, the 125 Mb sequence has revealed many of its evolutionary secrets. Through comparative analyses with other plant genomes, we know that the genome of A. thaliana, or better that of its ancestors, has undergone at least three whole genome duplications during the last 120 or so million years. The first duplication seems to have occurred at the dawn of dicot evolution, while the later duplications probably occurred less than 70 Million Years Ago (MYA). One of those younger genome-wide duplications might be linked to the K-T extinction. Following these duplication events, the ancestral A. thaliana genome was hugely rearranged and gene copies have been massively lost. During the last ten million years of its evolution, almost half of its genome was lost due to hundreds of thousands of small deletions. Here, we reconstruct plant genome evolution from the early angiosperm ancestor to the current A. thaliana genome, covering about 150 million years of evolution characterized by gene and genome duplications, genome rearrangements and genome reduction.

Proost, S., Pattyn, P., Gerats, T., Van de Peer, Y. (2011) Journey through the past: 150 million years of plant genome evolution. Plant J. 66(1):58-65.

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