Comparative analyses of American and Asian lotus genomes reveal insights into petal color, carpel thermogenesis and domestication

Ping Zheng, Heng Sun, Juan Liu, Jishan Lin, Xingtan Zhang, Yuan Qin, Wenping Zhang, Xiuming Xu, Xianbao Deng, Dong Yang, Meng Wang, Yanting Zhang, Heyun Song, Yongji Huang, Warner Orozco-Obando, Ray Ming, Mei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nelumbo lutea (American lotus), which differs from Nelumbo nucifera (Asian lotus) morphologically, is one of the two remaining species in the basal eudicot family Nelumbonaceae. Here, we assembled the 843-Mb genome of American lotus into eight pseudochromosomes containing 31 382 protein-coding genes. Comparative analyses revealed conserved synteny without large chromosomal rearrangements between the genomes of American and Asian lotus and identified 29 533 structural variants (SVs). Carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments determine the yellow and red petal colors of American and Asian lotus, respectively. The structural genes encoding enzymes of the carotenoid and anthocyanin biosynthesis pathways were conserved between two species but differed in expression. We detected SVs caused by repetitive sequence expansion or contraction among the anthocyanin biosynthesis regulatory MYB genes. Further transient overexpression of candidate NnMYB5 induced anthocyanin accumulation in lotus petals. Alternative oxidase (AOX), uncoupling proteins (UCPs), and sugar metabolism and transportation contributed to carpel thermogenesis. Carpels produce heat with sugars transported from leaves as the main substrates, because there was weak tonoplast sugar transporter (TST) activity, and with SWEETs were highly expressed during thermogenesis. Cell proliferation-related activities were particularly enhanced in the warmer carpels compared with stamens during the cold night before blooming, which suggested that thermogenesis plays an important role in flower protogyny. Population genomic analyses revealed deep divergence between American and Asian lotus, and independent domestication affecting seed, rhizome, and flower traits. Our findings provide a high-quality reference genome of American lotus for exploring the genetic divergence and variation between two species and revealed possible genomic bases for petal color, carpel thermogenesis and domestication in lotus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1498-1515
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • carpel thermogenesis
  • domestication
  • genetic divergence
  • genome sequencing
  • lotus
  • petal color

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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