Deeply altered genome architecture in the endoparasitic flowering plant Sapria himalayana Griff. (Curr. Biol.)

It’s one of those plants that gets noticed, so we’re excited to see the press associated with the genome sequence of the large endoparasitic plant Sapria himalayana. Everyone has seen pictures of this plant, which lives entirely underground except when it produces its large (20 cm diameter) blood red flowers. Cai et al. describe how this weird lifestyle is reflected in a weird genome. Like other parasitic plants, it has lost many otherwise conserved genes, but in this case fully 44% of conserved plant genes are missing, including apparently all plastid and plastid-associated genes. It also notably has some distinctly long introns, as long as 100 kb, potentially as a consequence of relaxed selective pressure. Finally, there is evidence of intimate associations with not only current, but also former hosts, in the form of horizontal gene transfer events.  (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2020.12.045