Genetic adaptation of giant lobelias (lobelia aberdarica and lobelia telekii) to different altitudes in East African mountains

Shu Ying Zhao, Ling Yun Chen, John K. Muchuku, Guang Wan Hu, Qing Feng Wang

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8 Scopus citations


The giant lobelias in East African mountains are good models for studying molecular mechanisms of adaptation to different altitudes. In this study, we generated RNA-seq data of a middle-altitude species Lobelia aberdarica and a high-altitude species L. telekii, followed by selective pressure estimation of their orthologous genes. Our aim was to explore the important genes potentially involved in adaptation to different altitudes. About 9.3 Gb of clean nucleotides, 167,929–170,534 unigenes with total lengths of 159,762,099–171,138,936 bp for each of the two species were generated. OrthoMCL method identified 3,049 1:1 orthologous genes (each species was represented by one ortholog). Estimations of non-synonymous to synonymous rate were performed using an approximate method and a maximum likelihood method in PAML. Eighty-five orthologous genes were under positive selection. At least 8 of these genes are possibly involved in DNA repair, response to DNA damage and temperature stimulus, and regulation of gene expression, which hints on how giant lobelias adapt to high altitudinal environment that characterized by cold, low oxygen, and strong ultraviolet radiation. The negatively selected genes are over-represented in Gene Ontology terms of hydrolase, macromolecular complex assembly among others. This study sheds light on understanding the molecular mechanism of adaptation to different altitudes, and provides genomic resources for further studies of giant lobelias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number488
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberAPR2016
StatePublished - Apr 12 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Zhao, Chen, Muchuku, Hu and Wang.


  • DN/dS ratio (ω)
  • Giant lobelias
  • High altitude
  • Natural selection
  • RNA-Seq


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