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Evolutionary implications of C-3-C-4 intermediates in the grass Alloteropsis semialata

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Plant, Cell and Environment
Issue number9
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)1874-1885
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/01/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


C-4 photosynthesis is a complex trait resulting from a series of anatomical and biochemical modifications to the ancestral C-3 pathway. It is thought to evolve in a stepwise manner, creating intermediates with different combinations of C-4-like components. Determining the adaptive value of these components is key to understanding how C-4 photosynthesis can gradually assemble through natural selection. Here, we decompose the photosynthetic phenotypes of numerous individuals of the grass Alloteropsis semialata, the only species known to include both C-3 and C-4 genotypes. Analyses of C-13, physiology and leaf anatomy demonstrate for the first time the existence of physiological C-3-C-4 intermediate individuals in the species. Based on previous phylogenetic analyses, the C-3-C-4 individuals are not hybrids between the C-3 and C-4 genotypes analysed, but instead belong to a distinct genetic lineage, and might have given rise to C-4 descendants. C(3)A. semialata, present in colder climates, likely represents a reversal from a C-3-C-4 intermediate state, indicating that, unlike C-4 photosynthesis, evolution of the C-3-C-4 phenotype is not irreversible.