Massive expansion and differential evolution of small heat shock proteins with wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) polyploidization


Wheat (Triticum aestivum), one of the world’s most important crops, is facing unprecedented challenges due to global warming. To evaluate the gene resources for heat adaptation in hexaploid wheat, small heat shock proteins (sHSPs), the key plant heat protection genes, were comprehensively analysed in wheat and related species. We found that the sHSPs of hexaploid wheat were massively expanded in A and B subgenomes with intrachromosomal duplications during polyploidization. These expanded sHSPs were under similar purifying selection and kept the expressional patterns with the original copies. Generally, a strong purifying selection acted on the α-crystallin domain (ACD) and theoretically constrain conserved function. Meanwhile, weaker purifying selection and strong positive selection acted on the N-terminal region, which conferred sHSP flexibility, allowing adjustments to a wider range of substrates in response to genomic and environmental changes. Notably, in CI, CV, ER, MI and MII subfamilies, gene duplications, expression variations and functional divergence occurred before wheat polyploidization. Our results indicate the massive expansion of active sHSPs in hexaploid wheat may also provide more raw materials for evolving functional novelties and generating genetic diversity to face future global climate changes, and highlight the expansion of stress response genes with wheat polyploidization.

Scientific Reports