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Genes for long lifespan of banyan, peepal trees identified


Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have carried out whole genome sequencing of banyan (Ficus benghalensis) and peepal (Ficus religiosa) from leaf tissue samples.

They also undertook a comprehensive genome-wide phylogenetic analysis with 50 other angiosperm plant species, including four other sequenced Ficus species.

Key findings of the Study:

Identifying signatures of adaptive evolution in genes associated with providing longevity in both species.

Showed multiple signs of adaptation: Genes related to sustained growth and development — plant root development, flowering, reproductive growth, and metabolism.

The adaptive evolution in genes in two cellular mechanisms might explain the well-developed aerial roots that is unique to banyan trees.

Both banyan and peepal trees have select plant disease resistance gene families that have been expanded through gene duplication events in the course of evolution which confers greater longevity.
Also, 88% and 89% of the MSA genes in banyan and peepal trees, respectively, are associated with tolerance against biotic and abiotic stress responses.

Science behind long life: Multiple Signs of Adaptive-evolution (MSA)

  • Scientists discovered 25,016 coding gene sequences in the banyan tree and 23,929 in the peepal tree.
  • Both banyan and peepal trees experienced a population bottleneck approximately 0.8 million years ago.
  • Genes in both trees underwent adaptive evolution, displaying multiple signs of adaptive evolution (MSA).
  • In the banyan tree, MSA genes primarily play roles in root growth, pollen tube and seed development, leaf formation, cell wall synthesis, metabolism, and other developmental processes.

How MSA prolongs the life?

  • Disease resistance and stress tolerance gene families in plants exhibited both expansion and high expression, contributing to their extended lifespan.
  • Peepal’s MSA genes govern root cell elongation, proliferation, seed growth, and control flowering time, impacting metabolism and intracellular transport.
  • The research team identified 17 MSA genes in banyan and 19 in peepal, primarily linked to well-developed morphology and tolerance against drought, oxidative stress, and pathogens.
  • Genes associated with auxin signaling for growth regulation and pathways regulating plant senescence displayed evolutionary signatures.
  • The MSA genes in banyan are linked to tolerance against both biotic and abiotic stress responses in approximately 88%, while in peepal, the corresponding figure is 89%.
  • These genes contribute to the plants’ ability to survive environmental challenges, ensuring their resilience in the face of adversities.

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