Biotech Updates

Study Shows Parasitic Flower Share More Genes from Its Host

June 8, 2012

Researchers from Harvard University discovered that parasitic "corpse flower" share large parts of its genome with its host vines even if they have been separated by over 100 million years of evolution. The scientists explained that the sharing of genome parts occurred through horizontal gene transfer, which is a process that allows transfer of genes without sexual reproduction.

Co-lead researchers from Stony Brook University said that the gene sharing is surprisingly widespread than their initial assumptions. The genes from the hosts appeared to be likely functional in the corpse flower and may have replaced the other genes that the flower inherited from the early generations.

According to Charles Davis, a professor from Harvard University, the new finding suggests that horizontal gene transfer may convey some evolutionary advantage to the flowers, which are known as the largest flowers in the world.

"At the outset, we wondered if it could be that a subset of these genes might provide some defense from the host mounting an attack," Davis added. "However, the genes coming to the flowers represent a broad swath of functions, including respiration, metabolism and perhaps some useful for defense. If so, these findings might reflect a sort of genomic camouflage, or genomic mimicry for the parasite."

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