A chromosome-level assembly of a wild castor genome provides new insights into the adaptive evolution in a tropical desert

Wild castor grows in the high-altitude tropical desert of the African Plateau, a region known for high ultraviolet radiations, strong lights and extremely dry conditions. To investigate the potential genetic basis of adaptation to both highland and tropical deserts, we generated a chromosome-level genome sequence of the wild castor accession WT05, with genome size of 316 Mb and scaffold and contig N50 sizes of 31.93 Mb and 8.96 Mb, respectively.

Compared with cultivated castor and other Euphorbiaceae species, the wild castor exhibits positive selection and gene family expansion for genes involved in DNA repair, photosynthesis and abiotic stress responses. Genetic variations associated with positive selection were identified in several key genes, such as LIG1, DDB2, and RECG1, involved in nucleotide excision repair. Moreover, a study of genomic diversity among wild and cultivated accessions revealed genomic regions containing selection signatures associated with the adaptation to extreme environments.

The identification of the genes and alleles with selection signatures provides insights into the genetic mechanisms underlying the adaptation of wild castor to the high-altitude tropical desert and would facilitate direct improvement of modern castor varieties.

Authors: Jianjun Lu, Cheng Pan, Wei Fan, Wanfei Liu, Huayan Zhao, Donghai Li, Sen Wang, Lianlian Hu, Bing He, Kun Qian, Rui Qin, Jue Ruan, Qiang Lin, Shiyou Lü, Peng Cui