Genomes of leafy and leafless Platanthera orchids illuminate the evolution of mycoheterotrophy

Ming He Li, Ke Wei Liu, Zhen Li, Hsiang Chia Lu, Qin Liang Ye, Diyang Zhang, Jie Yu Wang, Yu Feng Li, Zhi Ming Zhong, Xuedie Liu, Xia Yu, Ding Kun Liu, Xiong De Tu, Bin Liu, Yang Hao, Xing Yu Liao, Yu Ting Jiang, Wei Hong Sun, Jinliao Chen, Yan Qiong ChenYe Ai, Jun Wen Zhai, Sha Sha Wu, Zhuang Zhou, Yu Yun Hsiao, Wan Lin Wu, You Yi Chen, Yu Fu Lin, Jui Ling Hsu, Chia Ying Li, Zhi Wen Wang, Xiang Zhao, Wen Ying Zhong, Xiao Kai Ma, Liang Ma, Jie Huang, Gui Zhen Chen, Ming Zhong Huang, Laiqiang Huang, Dong Hui Peng, Yi Bo Luo, Shuang Quan Zou, Shi Pin Chen, Siren Lan, Wen Chieh Tsai, Yves Van de Peer, Zhong Jian Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


To improve our understanding of the origin and evolution of mycoheterotrophic plants, we here present the chromosome-scale genome assemblies of two sibling orchid species: partially mycoheterotrophic Platanthera zijinensis and holomycoheterotrophic Platanthera guangdongensis. Comparative analysis shows that mycoheterotrophy is associated with increased substitution rates and gene loss, and the deletion of most photoreceptor genes and auxin transporter genes might be linked to the unique phenotypes of fully mycoheterotrophic orchids. Conversely, trehalase genes that catalyse the conversion of trehalose into glucose have expanded in most sequenced orchids, in line with the fact that the germination of orchid non-endosperm seeds needs carbohydrates from fungi during the protocorm stage. We further show that the mature plant of P. guangdongensis, different from photosynthetic orchids, keeps expressing trehalase genes to hijack trehalose from fungi. Therefore, we propose that mycoheterotrophy in mature orchids is a continuation of the protocorm stage by sustaining the expression of trehalase genes. Our results shed light on the molecular mechanism underlying initial, partial and full mycoheterotrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-388
Number of pages16
JournalNature Plants
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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