Comparative transcriptomics of tropical woody plants supports fast and furious strategy along the leaf economics spectrum in lianas
Lianas, climbing woody plants, influence the structure and function of tropical forests. Climbing traits have evolved multiple times, including ancestral groups such as gymnosperms and pteridophytes, but the genetic basis of the liana strategy is largely unknown. Here, we use a comparative transcriptomic approach for 47 tropical plant species, including ten lianas of diverse taxonomic origins, to identify genes that are consistently expressed or downregulated only in lianas. Our comparative analysis of full-length transcripts enabled the identification of a core interactomic network common to lianas. Sets of transcripts identified from our analysis reveal features related to functional traits pertinent to leaf economics spectrum in lianas, include upregulation of genes controlling epidermal cuticular properties, cell wall remodeling, carbon concentrating mechanism, cell cycle progression, DNA repair and a large suit of downregulated transcription factors and enzymes involved in ABA-mediated stress response as well as lignin and suberin synthesis. All together, these genes are known to be significant in shaping plant morphologies through responses such as gravitropism, phyllotaxy and shade avoidance.