Evolutionary Timeline of Lycium Plants Using Chloroplast DNA

Jenn Hoskins
7th June, 2024

Evolutionary Timeline of Lycium Plants Using Chloroplast DNA

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at North Minzu University studied 15 Lycium species from China to understand their evolutionary relationships
  • They constructed a detailed phylogenetic tree using chloroplast genomes, revealing complex evolutionary histories and divergence times
  • The findings help in conservation and commercial use, especially in traditional Chinese medicine, by identifying genetically distinct species and desirable traits
Understanding the evolutionary history and relationships among species within the Lycium genus is crucial due to its economic and ecological significance. Lycium, a genus of shrubs comprising around 70 species worldwide, has seen increased interest because of its medicinal properties and commercial value, particularly in China where 15 species are found. Despite this, the phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary timelines of Lycium species have remained largely unexplored. A recent study by researchers at North Minzu University aims to address this gap by constructing a phylogeny and estimating divergence times based on the chloroplast genomes (CPGs) of 15 Lycium species from China[1]. The study's primary goal is to elucidate the evolutionary relationships within the Lycium genus, providing insights into how these species have diversified over time. By analyzing the CPGs, which are the genetic material found in the chloroplasts (organelles responsible for photosynthesis), the researchers were able to develop a detailed phylogenetic tree. This tree not only maps out the relationships between the different species but also estimates when these species diverged from their common ancestors. This research builds on earlier studies that have explored the chemical and pharmacological properties of Lycium species. For instance, previous research identified new neolignanamides and lignanamides from the root bark of Lycium chinense, which showed moderate antioxidant activities[2]. Another study reviewed the constituents and pharmacological activities of Lycium barbarum and L. chinense, highlighting their potential health benefits and the need for further investigation[3]. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the genetic and evolutionary backgrounds of these species to fully harness their medicinal properties. In constructing the phylogenetic tree, the researchers employed advanced sequencing techniques to decode the CPGs of the 15 Lycium species. They then used computational methods to align these sequences and identify genetic similarities and differences. This process allowed them to infer the evolutionary relationships and estimate divergence times. The results revealed a complex evolutionary history with several instances of divergence, suggesting that these species have adapted to various ecological niches over time. The study's findings have significant implications for both conservation and commercial exploitation of Lycium species. By understanding the phylogenetic relationships, conservationists can prioritize efforts to protect genetically distinct species and maintain biodiversity. For the commercial sector, particularly in the context of traditional Chinese medicine, this research provides a genetic basis for selecting species with desirable traits for cultivation and use. Moreover, the study's methodology and findings can serve as a model for similar research on other economically important plant genera. By integrating genetic data with ecological and pharmacological information, researchers can develop a more comprehensive understanding of plant evolution and its implications for human use. In conclusion, the study by North Minzu University marks a significant step forward in our understanding of the Lycium genus. By constructing a detailed phylogeny and estimating divergence times based on chloroplast genomes, the researchers have provided valuable insights into the evolutionary history of these economically and ecologically important species. This research not only enhances our knowledge of Lycium but also sets the stage for future studies aimed at unlocking the full potential of these plants for medicinal and commercial applications.

GeneticsPlant ScienceEvolution


Main Study

1) Phylogenetic analysis and divergence time estimation of Lycium species in China based on the chloroplast genomes

Published 6th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Neolignanamides, lignanamides, and other phenolic compounds from the root bark of Lycium chinense.


3) Goji (Lycium barbarum and L. chinense): Phytochemistry, pharmacology and safety in the perspective of traditional uses and recent popularity.


Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙