Candidate genes for adaptation to an aquatic habitat recovered from Ranunculus bungei and Ranunculus sceleratus

Shu Ying Zhao, Ling Yun Chen, Qing Feng Wang, Michael L. Moody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The molecular mechanisms responsible for plant adaptations to aquatic habitats remain poorly known. In this study, we aimed to detect selection on orthologous genes among the submerged aquatic plant Ranunculus bungei, semi-aquatic R. sceleratus, and terrestrial R. brotherusii and R. cantoniensis, in order to identify candidate genes involved in the adaptive transition from terrestrial habitats to aquatic habitats and if they differ between R. bungei and R. sceleratus. We used 884 previously reported 1:1:1:1 orthologous genes among the four species (one ortholog is represented in each species). We identified 177 genes of R. bungei and R. sceleratus that are potentially under positive selection. Among them, a set of candidate genes for adaptation to an aquatic habitat were recognized. These include several genes that are associated with photosynthesis, vacuoles, ethylene and oxygen receptors, and aerenchyma formation. Gene Ontology analyses suggest that the submerged R. bungei has a higher percentage of positively selected genes associated with the chloroplast and other plastids, while the semi-aquatic R. sceleratus has a higher percentage associated with metabolic processes. This study represents a step forward towards understanding the molecular mechanism of plant adaptations to aquatic habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Systematics and Ecology
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Wei Li for discussion on this study. This research was supported by Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 31500192), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (no. XDAO5090305) and the Special Foundation for State Basic Working Program of China (no. 2013FY112300).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Aquatic plant
  • Positive selection
  • Ranunculus
  • dN/dS ratio


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