Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica

Advances in Botanical Research

(Excerption from the Preface of Plastid Genome Evolution, Plastid Genome Evolution, Volume 85 - 1st Edition - Elsevier)

“In plants the plastids are almost certainly to be regarded as differentiation of protoplasmic substance” (K. Mereschkosky 1905; English translation by Martin & Kowallik 1999*)

Prior to the invention of electron microscope in 1931, a prominent Russian biologist and botanist named Konstantin Sergeevich Mereschkowski proposed the endosymbiotic origin of cell organelles in a 1905 publication. More than 60 years passed before Lynn Margulis revisited Mereschkowski’s unprecedented hypothesis, and eventually biologists began to accept that the plastid descended from an ancestor of extant cyanobacteria. Plastid genomes, referred to as plastomes in this book, encode many key proteins that are not only vital for regulation of photosynthesis but also play fundamental roles in the synthesis of nucleotides, amino acids, fatty acids and numerous primary metabolites as well as secondary compounds. Therefore, plastomes are crucial to the development of photosynthetic eukaryotes and to their interactions with the environment. In the past decade, advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have expedited the accumulation of plastome sequences for examining their evolution, the function of plastid-encoded genes and their interaction with nuclear genes. Information about the organization and evolution of plastomes has also played a crucial role in plastid genetic engineering to enhance crop species and to produce pharmaceuticals. Finally, plastome data have played a pivotal role in resolving the phylogeny of photosynthetic organisms.

In terms of plastome organization it is now widely recognized that plastomes are not predominantly circular but instead occur as linear and/or branched molecules that can form more complex multisubunit structural variants that can recombine. Moreover, dominant and subdominant forms have been detected in a number of seed plants lineages. There have been several recent examples of invasion of foreign DNA from the mitochondrion into the plastome, a phenomenon that is likely to be more prevalent as additional plastomes are sequenced. Plastome data have also been instrumental in identifying the earliest diverging flowering plant as Amborella, a problem that had vexed plant scientists since Darwin referred to it as an abominable mystery.

This volume presents novel insights into this exciting field from leading experts in plastome evolution, including a comprehensive coverage of plastid genome variation in a broad range of taxonomic groups, from protists and multicellular algae to the major clades of land plants. Plant scientists and students in the fields of molecular biology, biotechnology, evolution, phylogenetics, horticulture and agriculture will be prospective readers. We hope that readers find this volume a useful summary of up-to-date work on plastome evolution.

* Martin, W. & Kowallik, K. V. (1999). Annotated English translation of Mereschkowsky's 1905 paper ‘Über Natur und Ursprung der Chromatophoren imPflanzenreiche’. Eur J Phycol, 34:287-295.

Shu-Miaw Chaw and Robert K. Jansen

Taipei and Austin, December 2017