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Horizontal gene transfer of chloroplast genes in the parasitic plant Balanophora

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jianhua Li

Both abiotic and biotic environmental factors have impact on the biological systems and the impact is reflected at different levels from molecules to ecosystems. This project involves a holoparasitic plant and its host at the molecular level. Blanophora is a holoparasitic plant genus in southeast Asia with either 1 or 15 species depending on authors. It has been placed in the Santalales (e.g. mistletoes) based on morphological data and this placement is supported by molecular data. However, our preliminary chloroplast DNA sequence data suggest its close relationship with Fabales (legumes, e.g. beans and peas). It is possible that there has occurred a horizontal gene transfer from its photosynthetic host to the parasite. However, there have been few reports of GHT of chloroplast genes. We will gather more chloroplast genes from a few populations of Balanophora as well as the roots of its hosts. If genes from Balanophora are most similar to those in the host, then we have evidence that plastome HGT is involved in the host-parasite system.

Representative Publications:


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