Unlocking the Energy Blueprint of the Takamaka Tree

Jenn Hoskins
3rd March, 2024

Unlocking the Energy Blueprint of the Takamaka Tree

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in the Philippines decoded the complete mitochondrial genome of the medicinal plant Calophyllum soulattri
  • The genome analysis revealed 55 genes and signs of evolutionary pressure to maintain most of their functions
  • The plant is closely related to the mangosteen, providing insights into its evolutionary position
Calophyllum soulattri, a plant traditionally used for treating skin infections and rheumatic pain, has remained a mystery in genetic terms until now. Researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman have taken a significant step in uncovering its genetic secrets by decoding the complete mitochondrial genome of this medicinal plant[1]. This breakthrough offers a deeper understanding of the plantโ€™s potential benefits and its evolutionary history, which could have far-reaching implications for both medicine and botany. The mitochondrial genome, or mitogenome, is the DNA located in the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell that generate energy. This genome is separate from the DNA in the cell nucleus and is often used to understand evolutionary relationships between species and the functioning of the genes it contains. In C. soulattri, the mitogenome is 378,262 base pairs long and has a relatively balanced GC content of 43.97%, which refers to the proportion of guanine (G) and cytosine (C) bases, known for their stability and influence on the structure of DNA. Within this genome, scientists identified 55 genes, including 30 that code for proteins, 5 for ribosomal RNA (rRNA), and 20 for transfer RNA (tRNA). These molecules play crucial roles in protein synthesis and cellular function. The team also discovered 194 simple sequence repeats (SSRs), which are repeating sequences of DNA that can be used as markers for genetic studies, and 266 pairs of dispersed repeats, which are longer repeating sequences that can affect genome stability and evolution. One of the most intriguing findings was the prediction of 345 RNA editing sites. RNA editing is a process where the RNA sequence is altered after transcription, which can lead to changes in the proteins that are produced. For instance, RNA editing created essential start and stop codons for genes nad1 and ccmFc, which are necessary for the proper functioning of the mitochondrial proteins they encode. The study found that most of the protein-coding genes (PCGs) in the C. soulattri mitochondrial genome are undergoing negative selection, meaning there is evolutionary pressure to maintain their current functions. However, two genes, atp4 and ccmB, showed signs of positive selection, indicating adaptive changes that could be related to the plant's unique properties. Phylogenetic analysis, which is the study of the evolutionary relationships between species, placed C. soulattri as a close relative of the mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana. This aligns the plant within the order Malpighiales and provides a clearer picture of its place in the plant kingdom. The significance of this study is multi-faceted. For one, it offers a genetic foundation for future research into the medicinal properties of C. soulattri. This could be particularly important given the earlier findings that extracts from C. soulattri leaves show potential as an antiobesity treatment[2]. The molecular docking and pharmacokinetics studies of compounds from C. soulattri leaves suggested a strong binding affinity to fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO), which is better than the commercial drug orlistat. Understanding the genetics behind these compounds could help in the development of new and effective antiobesity drugs. Moreover, the study contributes to a broader understanding of plant genetics and evolution. Similar genomic studies on other plants, like Pereskia aculeata[3] and bitter gourd[4], have sequenced the mitochondrial genomes to explore their genetic information and evolutionary history. These studies collectively enhance our knowledge of plant genomics, especially in species with both food and medicinal uses. They also provide valuable genetic resources that can aid in the conservation and utilization of these plants. In conclusion, the complete mitochondrial genome of C. soulattri has been sequenced for the first time, offering a wealth of genetic information that has the potential to advance our understanding of this plant's medicinal properties and its evolutionary background. This foundational research not only opens the door to the development of new therapies but also contributes to the ongoing exploration of plant genetics and the complex relationships within the plant kingdom.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) The first mitochondrial genome of Calophyllum soulattri Burm.f.

Published 1st March, 2024


Related Studies

2) In Vivo Pharmacodynamics of Calophyllum soulattri as Antiobesity with In Silico Molecular Docking and ADME/Pharmacokinetic Prediction Studies.


3) Assembly of the Complete Mitochondrial Genome of Pereskia aculeata Revealed That Two Pairs of Repetitive Elements Mediated the Recombination of the Genome.


4) Analysis of the Complete Mitochondrial Genome of the Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia).


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