Comprehensive definition of genome features in Spirodela polyrhiza by high-depth physical mapping and short-read DNA sequencing strategies

Todd P. Michael, Douglas Bryant, Ryan Gutierrez, Nikolai Borisjuk, Philomena Chu, Hanzhong Zhang, Jing Xia, Junfei Zhou, Hai Peng, Moaine El Baidouri, Boudewijn ten Hallers, Alex R. Hastie, Tiffany Liang, Kenneth Acosta, Sarah Gilbert, Connor McEntee, Scott A. Jackson, Todd C. Mockler, Weixiong Zhang, Eric Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Spirodela polyrhiza is a fast-growing aquatic monocot with highly reduced morphology, genome size and number of protein-coding genes. Considering these biological features of Spirodela and its basal position in the monocot lineage, understanding its genome architecture could shed light on plant adaptation and genome evolution. Like many draft genomes, however, the 158-Mb Spirodela genome sequence has not been resolved to chromosomes, and important genome characteristics have not been defined. Here we deployed rapid genome-wide physical maps combined with high-coverage short-read sequencing to resolve the 20 chromosomes of Spirodela and to empirically delineate its genome features. Our data revealed a dramatic reduction in the number of the rDNA repeat units in Spirodela to fewer than 100, which is even fewer than that reported for yeast. Consistent with its unique phylogenetic position, small RNA sequencing revealed 29 Spirodela-specific microRNA, with only two being shared with Elaeis guineensis (oil palm) and Musa balbisiana (banana). Combining DNA methylation data and small RNA sequencing enabled the accurate prediction of 20.5% long terminal repeats (LTRs) that doubled the previous estimate, and revealed a high Solo:Intact LTR ratio of 8.2. Interestingly, we found that Spirodela has the lowest global DNA methylation levels (9%) of any plant species tested. Taken together our results reveal a genome that has undergone reduction, likely through eliminating non-essential protein coding genes, rDNA and LTRs. In addition to delineating the genome features of this unique plant, the methodologies described and large-scale genome resources from this work will enable future evolutionary and functional studies of this basal monocot family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-635
Number of pages19
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • BioNano Genomics
  • Spirodela polyrhiza
  • duckweed
  • methylome
  • next-generation sequencing
  • rDNA repeats
  • structure variation


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