Transcriptomes of the parasitic plant family orobanchaceae reveal surprising conservation of chlorophyll synthesis

Norman J. Wickett*, Loren A. Honaas, Eric K. Wafula, Malay Das, Kan Huang, Biao Wu, Lena Landherr, Michael P. Timko, John Yoder, James H. Westwood, Claude W. Depamphilis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Parasitism in flowering plants has evolved at least 11 times [1]. Only one family, Orobanchaceae, comprises all major nutritional types of parasites: facultative, hemiparasitic (partially photosynthetic), and holoparasitic (nonphotosynthetic) [2]. Additionally, the family includes Lindenbergia, a nonparasitic genus sister to all parasitic Orobanchaceae [3-6]. Parasitic Orobanchaceae include species with severe economic impacts: Striga (witchweed), for example, affects over 50 million hectares of crops in sub-Saharan Africa, causing more than $3 billion in damage annually [7]. Although gene losses and increased substitution rates have been characterized for parasitic plant plastid genomes [5, 8-11], the nuclear genome and transcriptome remain largely unexplored. The Parasitic Plant Genome Project (PPGP; [2] is leveraging the natural variation in Orobanchaceae to explore the evolution and genomic consequences of parasitism in plants through a massive transcriptome and gene discovery project involving Triphysaria versicolor (facultative hemiparasite), Striga hermonthica (obligate hemiparasite), and Phelipanche aegyptiaca (Orobanche [12]; holoparasite). Here we present the first set of large-scale genomic resources for parasitic plant comparative biology. Transcriptomes of above-ground tissues reveal that, in addition to the predictable loss of photosynthesis-related gene expression in P. aegyptiaca, the nonphotosynthetic parasite retains an intact, expressed, and selectively constrained chlorophyll synthesis pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2098-2104
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 20 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Transcriptomes of the parasitic plant family orobanchaceae reveal surprising conservation of chlorophyll synthesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this