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Comparative Transcriptomics and Metabolites Analysis of Two Closely Related Euphorbia Species Reveal Environmental Adaptation Mechanism and Active Ingredients Difference

  • Zheng, Han1
  • Yu, Mu-Yao1
  • Han, Yang1
  • Tai, Badalahu1, 2
  • Ni, Sheng-Fa3
  • Ji, Rui-Feng1
  • Pu, Chun-Juan1
  • Chen, Kang1
  • Li, Fu-Quan4
  • Xiao, Hua4
  • Shen, Ye1
  • Zhou, Xiu-Teng1
  • Huang, Lu-Qi1
  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Dao-di Herbs, National Resource Center for Chinese Materia Medica, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing , (China)
  • 2 Mongolian Medicine College, Inner Mongolia Minzu University, Tongliao , (China)
  • 3 Anhui University of Science and Technology, Huainan Xinhua Hospital, Huainan , (China)
  • 4 Hulunbeier Mongolian Medical Hospital, Hulunbeier , (China)
Published Article
Frontiers in Plant Science
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
May 31, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.905275
  • Plant Science
  • Original Research


Roots of Euphorbia fischeriana and Euphorbia ebracteolata are recorded as the source plant of traditional Chinese medicine “Langdu,” containing active ingredients with anticancer and anti-AIDS activity. However, the two species have specific patterns in the graphic distribution. Compared with E. ehracteolata, E. fischeriana distributes in higher latitude and lower temperature areas and might have experienced cold stress adaptation. To reveal the molecular mechanism of environmental adaptation, RNA-seq was performed toward the roots, stems, and leaves of E. fischeriana and E. ehracteolata. A total of 6,830 pairs of putative orthologs between the two species were identified. Estimations of non-synonymous or synonymous substitution rate ratios for these orthologs indicated that 533 of the pairs may be under positive selection (Ka/Ks > 0.5). Functional enrichment analysis revealed that significant proportions of the orthologs were in the TCA cycle, fructose and mannose metabolism, starch and sucrose metabolism, fatty acid biosynthesis, and terpenoid biosynthesis providing insights into how the two closely related Euphorbia species adapted differentially to extreme environments. Consistent with the transcriptome, a higher content of soluble sugars and proline was obtained in E. fischeriana, reflecting the adaptation of plants to different environments. Additionally, 5 primary or secondary metabolites were screened as the biomarkers to distinguish the two species. Determination of 4 diterpenoids was established and performed, showing jolkinolide B as a representative component in E. fischeriana, whereas ingenol endemic to E. ebracteolate. To better study population genetics, EST-SSR markers were generated and tested in 9 species of Euphorbia. A total of 33 of the 68 pairs were screened out for producing clear fragments in at least four species, which will furthermore facilitate the studies on the genetic improvement and phylogenetics of this rapidly adapting taxon. In this study, transcriptome and metabolome analyses revealed the evolution of genes related to cold stress tolerance, biosynthesis of TCA cycle, soluble sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, consistent with the molecular strategy that genotypes adapting to environment. The key active ingredients of the two species were quantitatively analyzed to reveal the difference in pharmacodynamic substance basis and molecular mechanism, providing insights into rational crude drug use.

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