Positive Selection and Heat-Response Transcriptomes Reveal Adaptive Features of the Arabidopsis Desert Relative, Anastatica hierochuntica

Gil Eshel, Nick Duppen, Wang Guannan, Dong-Ha Oh, Yana Kazachkova, Pawel Herzyk, Anna Amtmann, Michal Gordon, Vered Chalifa-Caspi, Michelle Oscar, Shirli Bar-David Michaeli, Amy Marshall-Colon, Maheshi Dassanayake, Simon Barak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Plant adaptation to a desert environment and its endemic heat stress is poorly understood at the molecular level. The naturally heat-tolerant Brassicaceae species Anastatica hierochuntica is an ideal extremophyte model to identify genetic adaptations that have evolved to allow plants to tolerate heat stress and thrive in deserts. We generated an A. hierochuntica reference transcriptome and identified extremophyte adaptations by comparing Arabidopsis thaliana and A. hierochuntica transcriptome responses to heat, and detecting positively selected genes in A. hierochuntica. The two species exhibit similar transcriptome adjustment in response to heat and the A. hierochuntica transcriptome does not exist in a constitutive heat ‘stress-ready’ state. Furthermore, the A. hierochuntica global transcriptome as well as heat-responsive orthologs, display a lower basal and higher heat-induced expression than in A. thaliana. Genes positively selected in multiple extremophytes are associated with stomatal opening, nutrient acquisition, and UV-B induced DNA repair while those unique to A. hierochuntica are consistent with its photoperiod-insensitive, early-flowering phenotype. We suggest that evolution of a flexible transcriptome confers the ability to quickly react to extreme diurnal temperature fluctuations characteristic of a desert environment while positive selection of genes involved in stress tolerance and early flowering could facilitate an opportunistic desert lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1006-1026
Number of pages21
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Anastatica hierochuntica
  • Brassicaceae
  • adaptation
  • desert species
  • extremophyte
  • heat stress
  • positive selection
  • transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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