The flying spider-monkey tree fern genome provides insights into fern evolution and arborescence

Xiong Huang, Wenling Wang, Ting Gong, David Wickell, Li Yaung Kuo, Xingtan Zhang, Jialong Wen, Hoon Kim, Fachuang Lu, Hansheng Zhao, Song Chen, Hui Li, Wenqi Wu, Changjiang Yu, Su Chen, Wei Fan, Shuai Chen, Xiuqi Bao, Li Li, Dan ZhangLongyu Jiang, Xiaojing Yan, Zhenyang Liao, Gongke Zhou, Yalong Guo, John Ralph, Ronald R. Sederoff, Hairong Wei, Ping Zhu, Fay Wei Li, Ray Ming, Quanzi Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, little is known about the evolution of fern genomes, with only two small genomes published from the heterosporous Salviniales. Here we assembled the genome of Alsophila spinulosa, known as the flying spider-monkey tree fern, onto 69 pseudochromosomes. The remarkable preservation of synteny, despite resulting from an ancient whole-genome duplication over 100 million years ago, is unprecedented in plants and probably speaks to the uniqueness of tree ferns. Our detailed investigations into stem anatomy and lignin biosynthesis shed new light on the evolution of stem formation in tree ferns. We identified a phenolic compound, alsophilin, that is abundant in xylem, and we provided the molecular basis for its biosynthesis. Finally, analysis of demographic history revealed two genetic bottlenecks, resulting in rapid demographic declines of A. spinulosa. The A. spinulosa genome fills a crucial gap in the plant genomic landscape and helps elucidate many unique aspects of tree fern biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-512
Number of pages13
JournalNature plants
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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