The EvoNet project uses a phylogenomic approach and a “paired species” sampling strategy to identify the genes responsible for the divergence of the extreme survivors from their most closely related species growing on arid but nitrogen-replete soils in California. Comparative studies will help to identify the mechanisms underlying physiological and developmental processes that allow efficient capture, assimilation, and remobilization of nitrogen in nitrogen-poor soils. The genes and network modules so uncovered can potentially be translated to biofuel crops to greatly increase biomass and nitrogen use efficiency in marginal, low-fertility soils.

The project represents an inter-continental collaboration combining the expertise of scientists from six research/educational institutions specializing in plant biology, evolution & genomics: New York University, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, The New York Botanical Garden, American Museum of Natural History, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and The University of Wisconsin.

This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy grant “EvoNet: A Phylogenomic and Systems Biology Approach to Identify Genes Underlying Plant Survival in Marginal, Low-Nitrogen Soils” no. DE-SC0014377. In our EvoNet project, we propose to identify key molecular players in the development of low-N tolerance within a water-poor environment. Chile and California belong to the same floristic province. This means they share a relatively uniform composition of plant species. By comparing multiple species pairs from California and Chile, along with a non-adapted sibling species we will identify recurrent genetic changes that co-occur with the Drought & low-N adaptations.

We have already sampled and sequenced plants that survive in the altitudinal cline between the Atacama desert and the Andean peaks. These species span a broad range of land plant clades, including 21 Dicot, 7 Monocot and one Gymnosperm species. For each of these species we have identified its taxonomically closest species that exists natively in California, at a comparable altitudinal cline. We have also identified the taxonomically closest, fully sequenced, and largely mesic plant species. We are currently sampling the California species and preparing them for transcriptome sequencing. Once the full dataset is generated, we will use the BigPlant Phylogenomic pipeline and Systems Biology approaches to identify the genes underlying adaptation to marginal, low-nitrogen soils.

All data and analysis generated from this project will be shared on this site in the future.

The project participants are:
NYU: Gloria Coruzzi, Department of Biology, Center for Genomics and Systems Biology
PUC: Rodrigo Gutierrez, Plant Systems Biology Lab
NYBG: Dennis Stevenson, Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics
AMNH: Rob DeSalle, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics
CSHL: Dick McCombie, Genomics & Bioinformatics and Plant Biology
UW-Madison: Jean-Michel Ane & Heidi Kaeppler, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Selected species for this project are :