The persimmon genome reveals clues to the evolution of a lineage-specific sex determination system in plants

Takashi Akagi, Kenta Shirasawa, Hideki Nagasaki, Hideki Hirakawa, Ryutaro Tao, Luca Comai, Isabelle M. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most angiosperms bear hermaphroditic flowers, but a few species have evolved outcrossing strategies, such as dioecy, the presence of separate male and female individuals. We previously investigated the mechanisms underlying dioecy in diploid persimmon (D. lotus) and found that male flowers are specified by repression of the autosomal gene MeGI by its paralog, the Y-encoded pseudo-gene OGI. This mechanism is thought to be lineage-specific, but its evolutionary path remains unknown. Here, we developed a full draft of the diploid persimmon genome (D. lotus), which revealed a lineage-specific genome-wide paleoduplication event. Together with a subsequent persimmon-specific duplication(s), these events resulted in the presence of three paralogs, MeGI, OGI and newly identified Sister of MeGI (SiMeGI), from the single original gene. Evolutionary analysis suggested that MeGI underwent adaptive evolution after the paleoduplication event. Transformation of tobacco plants with MeGI and SiMeGI revealed that MeGI specifically acquired a new function as a repressor of male organ development, while SiMeGI presumably maintained the original function. Later, local duplication spawned MeGI’s regulator OGI, completing the path leading to dioecy. These findings exemplify how duplication events can provide flexible genetic material available to help respond to varying environments and provide interesting parallels for our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the transition into dieocy in plants. Author summary Plant sexuality has fascinated scientists for decades. Most plants can self-reproduce but not all. For example, a small subset of species have evolved a system called dioecy, with separate male and female individuals. Dioecy has evolved multiple times independently and, while we do not understand the molecular mechanisms underlying dioecy in many of these species yet, a picture is starting to emerge with recent progress in several dioecious species. Here, we focused on the evolutionary events leading to dioecy in persimmon. Our previous work had identified a pair of genes regulating sex in this species, called OGI and MeGI. We drafted the whole genome sequence of diploid persimmon to investigate their evolutionary history. We discovered a lineage-specific genome duplication event, and observed that MeGI underwent adaptive evolution after this duplication. Transgenic analyses validated that MeGI newly acquired a male-suppressor function, while the other copy of this gene, SiMeGI, did not. The regulator of MeGI, OGI, resulted from a second smaller-scale duplication event, finalizing the system. This study sheds light on the role of duplication as a mechanism that promote flexible genes functions, and how it can affect important biological functions, such as the establishment of a new sexual system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUnknown Journal
Publication statusPublished - May 5 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The persimmon genome reveals clues to the evolution of a lineage-specific sex determination system in plants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this