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Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal Clermont Auvergne University

UMR GDEC

Joint Research Unit 1095 Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of Cereals

Florent Murat

2016 July - Study of the evolutionary and structural plasticity of plant genomes

Angiosperms (or flowering plants) consist in approximatively 350 000 species that have diverged 150 to 200 million years ago in two main families, monocots (orchids, palm trees, banana, bulrushes, grasses…) and dicots (Brassicaceae, Rosaceae, legumes…) representing respectively 20% and 75% of flowering plants. Angiosperms are the subject of intense researches, in particular in genomics since 2000 with the sequence release of the first plant genome (Arabidopsis thaliana) preceding a large number of genomes of plant models and/or species of agronomical interest (around 100 today). Increasing access to plant genome sequences has allowed the identification of their structural diversity, in terms of genome size, number of chromosomes and genes as well as transposable element content. The evolutionary forces that have shaped such structural genomic divergence are at the center of this thesis.

Our paleogenomics approach will investigate, through ancestral genome reconstructions, how modern species have diverged from common ancestors and which mechanisms have contributed to such present-day genome plasticity. In this thesis, we have developed methods based on comparative genomics to study plant genome evolution and reconstruct ancestral genomes, extinct progenitors of the modern angiosperm species. An ancestral angiosperm genome has been reconstructed made of 5 chromosomes and 6707 ordered genes allowing the integration in the same model of monocots and eudicots and finally elucidating evolutionary trajectories for species of major agricultural interest such as cereals, rosids and Brassicaceae. The reconstructed paleohistory of modern flowering plants enabled the identification as well as the investigation of the impact of polyploidy events (WGD, whole genome duplications), ubiquitous in plants, as a major driver of the observed structural plasticity of angiosperms.

We established that genomes tend to return to a diploid status following a polyploidy event. This structural diploidization is performed at the karyotypic level through chromosomal rearrangements (involving ancestral centromeres and telomeres losses) as well as the gene level (through ancestral duplicates loss). It has been shown that this diploidization is preferentially done on one of the post-polyploidy subgenome, leading to the "sub-genome dominance" phenomenon. This structural plasticity bias (also referenced as plasticity partitioning) is acting differentially between species, chromosomes, chromosomal compartments, gene types, resulting in the structural diversity observed between the present-day plant genomes. This thesis is clearly within the scope of fundamental researches but also has a strong applied objective through translational research in creating bridges between species of major relevance for agriculture. The comparison of one species to another through the reconstructed ancestral genomes allows transferring knowledge gained on genes or any region of interest from model species to crops. Paleogenomics, in reconstructing ancestral genome and unveiling the forces driving modern plant genome plasticity, is therefore of fundamental (toward understanding species evolution) but also applied (toward improving orphan species from knowledge gained in models) objectives.

Keywords: Plants, evolution, structure, comparative genomics, ancestors, genes, karyotypes, chromosomes, polyploidization, diploidization, diversity, angiosperms, monocots, dicots, cereals, Brassicaceae.