The Evolution of C4 Photosynthesis in the Cleomaceae,
a sister clade to the Brassicaceae

Project code: TS 229/1-1

C4 photosynthesis has evolved at least 45-times independently from C3 ancestors in both mono- and dicotyledonous seed plant families. It thus represents a remarkable example of convergent evolution of a complex adaptive trait. C4 photosynthesis can be considered as an adaptation to high temperatures and low water availability, or, more generally, to conditions of abiotic stress. Simply spoken, the emerging model of how C4 plants evolve from C3 ancestors posits that genes that are already present in C3 plants undergo changes in their expression strength and their expression domains in the course of C4 evolution, which is frequently accompanied (or predated) by gene and/or genome duplications. Beyond this general model, the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying this complex adaptive trait are not well understood.

The discovery of several C4 photosynthetic species in the family Cleomaceae, a sister family to the Brassicaceae within the Brassicales, now makes it possible to capitalize on the resources and tools available for the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana for dissecting the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the C4 trait in the Brassicales. Specifically, our work aims at the identification and functional analysis of genes governing the C4 trait through genome-wide comparative analysis of C3 and C4 Brassicales and through repression and over-expression of candidate genes in Arabidopsis and Cleome spec.

Publications related to the project

  • Sommer M, Bräutigam A, Weber APM The dicotyledonous NAD-malic enzyme C4 plant Cleome gynandra displays age-dependent plasticity of C4 decarboxylation biochemistry. Plant Biol 14: 621-629 (2012). Weblink
  • Bräutigam A, Kajala K, Wullenweber J, Sommer M, Gagneul D, Weber KL, Carr KM, Gowik U, Maß J, Lercher MJ, Westhoff P, Hibberd JM, Weber APM An mRNA blueprint for C4 photosynthesis derived from comparative transcriptomics of closely related C3 and C4 species. Plant Physiol 155(1): 142-156 (2011). Weblink
  • Bräutigam A, Mullick T, Schliesky S, Weber APM Critical assessment of assembly strategies for non-model species mRNA-Seq data and application of next-generation sequencing to the comparison of C3 and C4 species. J Exp Bot 62(9): 3093-3102 (2011). Weblink
  • Furumoto T, Yamaguchi T, Ohshima-Ichie Y, Nakamura M, Tsuchida-Iwata Y, Shimamura M, Ohnishi J, Hata S, Gowik U, Westhoff P, Bräutigam A, Weber APM, Izui K A plastidial sodium-dependent pyruvate transporter. Nature 476: 472-475 (2011). Weblink



  • Andreas P.M. Weber
    Prof. Dr. Andreas P.M. Weber
    Principal Investigator
    University of Düsseldorf
    Office: +49 (0)211 / 81-12347
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  • Prof. Dr. Peter Westhoff
    Principal Investigator
    University of Düsseldorf
    Office: +49 (0)211 / 81-12338
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  • Dr. Urte Schlüter
    Postdoctoral Researcher in SPP1529
    Tel.: +49 (0)211 / 81-10467
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  • Manuel Sommer, PhD student Researcher in SPP1529
    Office: +49 (0)211 / 81-10474
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  • Dr. Andrea Bräutigam
    Collaborating Scientist
    Office:  +49 (0)211 / 81-10467
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