Genome research reveals how rice evolves to resist weeds

Chinese scientists have revealed that gene clustering helped rice evolve to produce so-called momilactone to defend itself against weeds, according to a study published in the journal PNAS.

In order to fight weeds, one of its main enemies, rice has evolved to produce momilactone, a metabolite that can inhibit the growth of weeds.

Chinese and Japanese scientists analyzed more than 100 genome sequences from plants, finding that the gene clusters that can compound momilactone exist only in three plant species, including rice.

Some plants have also evolved key genes related to momilactone but they are not closely arranged in clusters, said Fan Longjiang from Zhejiang University, one of the paper’s authors. That is why those plants cannot produce momilactone, he added.

The study also showed that momilactone is a result of independent evolutionary events in natural selection, which means that more plants capable of producing momilactone may be found in the future, Fan said.