Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover Plant Without Chloroplasts

March 12, 2014

Researchers from New York University (NYU), NYU Abu Dhabi, Long Island University (LIU), the Philippine Genome Center, University of Canterbury, University of Arizona, and Southern Illinois University sequenced the genome of Rafflesia, a parasitic genus of plants endemic to southeast Asia, believed to have lost its chloroplast genome.

Led by NYU biology Professor Michael Purugganan and LIU professor Jeanmaire Molina, the study attempted to find the chloroplast genome. Purugganan said "In science, one of the hardest things to show is that something isn't there."

Rafflesia is dominated by a large flower and roots that parasitize a specific vine and smells like rotting flesh to attract flies that pollinate it. As a parasite, it diverges from typical plants, which are photosynthetic autotrophs. Professor Eric Brenner said the plant has evolved into a heterotroph, and has lost its chloroplast DNA since it is no longer needed for survival. Rafflesia was known to lack chloroplasts because it obtains all of its sugars, or energy, from its host vine.

For more details about this study, read the news release available at http://www.nyunews.com/2014/03/06/plants/.