Rahmatpour N., N.V. Perera, V. Singh, J.L. Wegrzyn & B. Goffinet. 2021. High gene space divergence contrasts with frozen vegetative architecture in the moss family Funariaceae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 154: (in press).pdf Google scholar
Abstract reads: A new paradigm has slowly emerged regarding the diversification of bryophytes, with inferences from molecular data highlighting a dynamic evolution of their genome. However, comparative studies of expressed genes among closely related taxa is so far missing. Here we contrast the dimensions of the vegetative transcriptome of Funaria hygrometrica and Physcomitrium pyriforme against the genome of their relative, Physcomitrium (Physcomitrella) patens. These three species of Funariaceae share highly conserved vegetative bodies, and are partially sympatric, growing on mineral soil in mostly temperate regions. We analyzed the vegetative gametophytic transcriptome of F. hygrometrica and P. pyriforme and mapped short reads, transcripts, and proteins to the genome and gene space of P. patens. Only about half of the transcripts of F. hygrometrica map to their ortholog in P. patens, whereas at least 90% of those of P. pyriforme align to loci in P. patens. Such divergence is unexpected given the high morphological similarity of the gametophyte but reflects the estimated times of divergence of F. hygrometrica and P. pyriforme from P. patens, namely 55 and 20 mya, respectively. The newly sampled transcriptomes bear signatures of at least one, rather ancient, whole genome duplication (WGD), which may be shared with one reported for P. patens. The transcriptomes of F. hygrometrica and P. pyriforme reveal significant contractions or expansions of different gene families. While transcriptomes offer only an incomplete estimate of the gene space, the high number of transcripts obtained suggest a significant divergence in gene sequences, and gene number among the three species, indicative of a rather strong, dynamic genome evolution, shaped in part by whole, partial or localized genome duplication. The gene ontology of their specific and rapidly-evolving protein families, suggests that the evolution of the Funariaceae may have been driven by the diversification of metabolic genes that may optimize the adaptations to environmental conditions, a hypothesis well in line with ecological patterns in the genetic diversity and structure in seed plants.