Unraveling the Genetic Secrets of Mongolian Thyme

Jenn Hoskins
21st March, 2024

Unraveling the Genetic Secrets of Mongolian Thyme

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Scientists mapped the genome of Thymus mongolicus, a hardy, aromatic thyme from Inner Mongolia
  • The study found two rounds of genome duplication in thyme, which may explain its adaptability
  • Genes linked to thyme's scent and environmental tolerance were identified, promising new uses
Thyme, a herb known for its distinctive fragrance and resilience, has been a subject of scientific curiosity for its potential applications in medicine and agriculture. Researchers from Inner Mongolia University have taken a significant step forward in understanding the genetic makeup of Thymus mongolicus, a species of thyme valued for its strong aroma and adaptability[1]. This breakthrough study provides a deeper insight into the plant's genome, which could unlock new possibilities for its use and conservation. The study's centerpiece is the successful sequencing of the T. mongolicus genome, which has been meticulously assembled into 12 pseudochromosomes, spanning 605.2 Mb. This assembly is comprehensive, with over 96% of the sequence accurately placed within these chromosomal structures. The genome is predominantly composed of repetitive sequences, a common trait in plant genomes, which make up nearly 71% of the sequence. Furthermore, the researchers predicted the existence of 32,593 protein-coding genes within this genome. One of the most striking findings from this research is the evidence of two rounds of whole genome duplication (WGD) in the Lamiaceae family, a phenomenon previously observed in other plant species[2][3][4]. These duplication events are thought to be a driving force behind the evolution and diversification of plants, providing them with a genetic reservoir to adapt to changing environments and develop new traits. T. mongolicus also exhibited a species-specific genome duplication, further contributing to its unique genetic profile. The study also uncovered a recent burst of LTR retrotransposon activity and tandem duplications, which are likely key factors in shaping the Thymus genome. These genetic events can lead to the development of new genes and contribute to the genetic diversity within a species. Building on the phylogenetic framework established, the researchers conducted functional enrichment analysis of genes that underwent significant duplication. They discovered that these genes are closely linked to environmental adaptation and the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, substances produced by plants that are not directly involved in growth or reproduction but can have protective or competitive advantages. In particular, the study highlighted the role of genes associated with the phenylpropanoid-flavonoid pathway. Enzymes such as Peroxidases, Hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferases, and 4-coumarate-CoA ligases were identified as crucial regulators in this pathway. The products of these enzymes, which include compounds like apigenin and naringenin chalcone, are believed to contribute to T. mongolicus's environmental tolerance and aromatic qualities. This research not only sheds light on the genetic evolution of T. mongolicus but also contributes to a broader understanding of the Lamiaceae family's genomics. It builds upon previous studies that have explored the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites in related species[4][5], offering new insights into the molecular underpinnings of these processes. The comprehensive genomic data from T. mongolicus, when combined with transcriptome and metabolome analyses, reveal a complex network of genes responsible for the plant's adaptation and the production of its characteristic secondary metabolites. These findings pave the way for future studies to explore the genetic basis of these traits further and potentially harness them for agricultural or medicinal purposes. In conclusion, the genomic dissection of T. mongolicus by Inner Mongolia University marks a significant advancement in our understanding of the Lamiaceae family. This knowledge opens up exciting avenues for the development of thyme varieties with enhanced flavors, aromas, or stress resistance, which could have considerable implications for culinary, medicinal, and agricultural applications.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Chromosome-level genome assembly provides insights into the genome evolution and functional importance of the phenylpropanoid-flavonoid pathway in Thymus mongolicus.

Published 19th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) The chromosome-level genome of Akebia trifoliata as an important resource to study plant evolution and environmental adaptation in the Cretaceous.


3) The chromosome-level genome of female ginseng (Angelica sinensis) provides insights into molecular mechanisms and evolution of coumarin biosynthesis.


4) Chromosome-level assembly and analysis of the Thymus genome provide insights into glandular secretory trichome formation and monoterpenoid biosynthesis in thyme.


5) The genomes of medicinal skullcaps reveal the polyphyletic origins of clerodane diterpene biosynthesis in the family Lamiaceae.


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