Editors' ChoiceEVOLUTION

How plant parasites evolved to find hosts

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Sci. Signal.  04 Aug 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 388, pp. ec221
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aad1353

The seeds of parasitic plants need to be able to sense their host's presence to germinate at the correct time and in the correct place. This is done through the detection of plant hormones, strigolactones. Conn et al. investigated the diversity of strigolactone receptors in multiple lineages of parasitic plants and their close relatives. They found a greater copy number and accelerated evolution in parasitic plants as compared with nonparasitic relatives. Functional analyses of parasitic plant strigolactone receptors in transgenic Arabidopsis suggested that convergent evolution has occurred to allow the parasitic plants to detect their hosts.

C. E. Conn, R. Bythell-Douglas, D. Neumann, S. Yoshida, B. Whittington, J. H. Westwood, K. Shirasu, C. S. Bond, K. A. Dyer, D. C. Nelson, Convergent evolution of strigolactone perception enabled host detection in parasitic plants. Science 349, 540–543 (2015). [Abstract] [Full Text]