A near-complete genome assembly of the allotetrapolyploid Cenchrus fungigraminus (JUJUNCAO) provides insights into its evolution and C4 photosynthesis

Huakun Zheng, Baiyu Wang, Xiuting Hua, Ruiting Gao, Yuhao Wang, Zixin Zhang, Yixing Zhang, Jing Mei, Yongji Huang, Yumin Huang, Hui Lin, Xingtan Zhang, Dongmei Lin, Siren Lan, Zhongjian Liu, Guodong Lu, Zonghua Wang, Ray Ming, Jisen Zhang, Zhanxi Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


JUJUNCAO (Cenchrus fungigraminus; 2n = 4x = 28) is a Cenchrus grass with the highest biomass production among cultivated plants, and it can be used for mushroom cultivation, animal feed, and biofuel production. Here, we report a nearly complete genome assembly of JUJUNCAO and reveal that JUJUNCAO is an allopolyploid that originated ∼2.7 million years ago (mya). Its genome consists of two subgenomes, and subgenome A shares high collinear synteny with pearl millet. We also investigated the genome evolution of JUJUNCAO and suggest that the ancestral karyotype of Cenchrus split into the A and B ancestral karyotypes of JUJUNCAO. Comparative transcriptome and DNA methylome analyses revealed functional divergence of homeologous gene pairs between the two subgenomes, which was a further indication of asymmetric DNA methylation. The three types of centromeric repeat in the JUJUNCAO genome (CEN137, CEN148, and CEN156) may have evolved independently within each subgenome, with some introgressions of CEN156 from the B to the A subgenome. We investigated the photosynthetic characteristics of JUJUNCAO, revealing its typical C4 Kranz anatomy and high photosynthetic efficiency. NADP-ME and PEPCK appear to cooperate in the major C4 decarboxylation reaction of JUJUNCAO, which is different from other C4 photosynthetic subtypes and may contribute to its high photosynthetic efficiency and biomass yield. Taken together, our results provide insights into the highly efficient photosynthetic mechanism of JUJUNCAO and provide a valuable reference genome for future genetic and evolutionary studies, as well as genetic improvement of Cenchrus grasses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100633
JournalPlant Communications
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 11 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Cenchrus grass
  • allotetrapolyploid
  • centromere architecture
  • evolutionary trajectory
  • genome assembly
  • photosynthetic efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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