An overlooked paleotetraploidization in Cucurbitaceae


Cucurbitaceae plants are of considerable biological and economic importance, and genomes of cucumber, watermelon, and melon have been sequenced. However, a comparative genomics exploration of their genome structures and evolution has not been available. Here, we aimed at performing a hierarchical inference of genomic homology resulted from recursive paleopolyploidizations. Unexpectedly, we found that, shortly after a core-eudicot-common hexaploidy, a cucurbit-common tetraploidization (CCT) occurred, overlooked by previous reports. Moreover, we characterized gene loss (and retention) after these respective events, which were significantly unbalanced between inferred subgenomes, and between plants after their split. The inference of a dominant subgenome and a sensitive one suggested an allotetraploid nature of the CCT. Besides, we found divergent evolutionary rates among cucurbits, and after doing rate correction, we dated the CCT to be 90–102 Ma, likely common to all Cucurbitaceae plants, showing its important role in the establishment of the plant family.

Molecular biology and evolution