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Mycoheterotrophic plants have lost photosynthesis and obtain carbon through mycorrhizal fungi colonizing their roots. They likely evolved from mixotrophic ancestors, which rely on both photosynthesis and fungal carbon for their development. Whereas our understanding of the ecological and genomic changes associated with the evolutionary shift to mycoheterotrophy is deepening, little is known about the specific metabolic and physiological features driving this evolution. We investigated this issue in naturally occurring achlorophyllous variants of temperate mixotrophic orchids. We carried out an integrated transcriptomic and metabolomic analysis of the response to achlorophylly in the leaves of three mixotrophic species sampled in natura. Achlorophyllous leaves showed major impairment of their photosynthetic and mineral nutrition functions, strong accumulation of free amino acids, overexpression of enzymes and transporters related to sugars, amino acids and fatty acid catabolism, as well as induction of some autophagy-related and biotic stress genes. Such changes were reminiscent of these reported for variegated leaves and appeared to be symptomatic of a carbon starvation response. Rather than decisive metabolic innovations, we suggest that the evolution towards mycoheterotrophy in orchids more likely relies on the versatility of plant metabolism and an ability to exploit fungal organic resources, especially amino acids, to replace missing photosynthates. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology
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