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Early diversity of plant receptor-like kinases

Researchers from Nanjing Normal University have made an important breakthrough on the early evolution and diversification of plant receptor-like kinases (RLKs). The article, entitled “Flourishing in water: the early evolution and diversification of plant receptor-like kinases”, was published in Plant Journal with graduate student Zhen Gong as the first author.

RLKs play significant roles in mediating innate immunity and development of plants. The evolution of plant RLKs has been characterized by extensive variation in copy numbers and domain configurations. However, much remains unknown about the origin, evolution, and early diversification of plant RLKs. Gong et al. performed phylogenomic analyses of RLKs across plants (including land plants, charophytes, chlorophytes, prasinodermaphytes, glaucophytes, and rhodophytes) and identified the presence of RLKs in all the streptophytes (land plants and charophytes), nine out of 18 chlorophytes, one prasinodermaphyte, and one glaucophyte, but not in rhodophytes. RLKs from charophytes form diverse distinct clusters, and are dispersed along the diversity of land plant RLKs, indicating that charophyte RLKs seeded the major diversity of land plant RLKs. Gong et al. also detected signatures of positive selection for many charophyte RLK groups, indicating potential functions in host-microbe interaction. Taken together, these findings provide novel insights into the early evolution and diversification of plant RLKs and the ancient evolution of plant-microbe symbiosis.

Support for the project was provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Province.