Research Highlight

Aloe vera genome decoded

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.38 Published online 13 March 2021

© Pexels

A genetic study has identified a host of drought-resistant genes that allow Aloe vera to grow and adapt to hot and arid climates across the globe1.

This medicinal plant species has adaptively evolved its genes to make its physiology more robust against drought and other stress conditions, a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhopal has found.  

The study, they say, will help better understand the herb’s medicinal and biological properties, including its evolution.  

Scientists, led by Vineet K. Sharma, sequenced the whole genome of the herb. They identified more than 86,000 protein-coding genes.

Of these genes, they narrowed their search to 199 genes that played vital roles in its evolution and adaptation. These included flowering-related genes that are important for the reproductive success under drought conditions.

The researchers also detected sequence-specific DNA-binding genes involved in signalling pathways that respond to external stimuli.

The herb also possesses genes that help produce energy by breaking down carbohydrate and modulate responses to abiotic stresses such as low or high temperature, water scarcity, high salinity and ultraviolet radiation.   

At least 90 genes have roles in drought-stress tolerance-related functions. Such genes also physically interact with one another, pointing towards the adaptive evolution of drought-stress tolerance mechanisms in Aloe vera, says Sharma.


References

1. Jaiswal, S. K. et al. The genome sequence of Aloe vera reveals adaptive evolution of drought tolerance mechanisms. iScience. 24, 102079 (2021)