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Characterization of the basal angiosperm Aristolochia fimbriata: a potential experimental system for genetic studies

Barbara J Bliss12*, Stefan Wanke3, Abdelali Barakat14, Saravanaraj Ayyampalayam5, Norman Wickett16, P Kerr Wall17, Yuannian Jiao1, Lena Landherr1, Paula E Ralph1, Yi Hu1, Christoph Neinhuis3, Jim Leebens-Mack5, Kathiravetpilla Arumuganathan8, Sandra W Clifton109, Siela N Maximova11, Hong Ma11213 and Claude W dePamphilis1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics, and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, 201 Life Sciences Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

2 USDA ARS PBARC, 64 Nowelo St., Hilo, HI 96720, USA

3 Technische Universität Dresden, Institut für Botanik, D-01062, Dresden, Germany

4 100 Jordan Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634, USA

5 Department of Plant Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, USA

6 Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, 27709, USA

7 BASF Plant Science, 26 Davis Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, USA

8 Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Flow Cytometry and Imaging Core Laboratory, 1201 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98101, USA

9 The Genome Institute,Washington University School of Medicine, 4444 Forest Park Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63108, USA

10 Stephenson Research and Technology Center, Advanced Center for Genome Technology, University of Oklahoma, 101 David L. Boren Blvd, Norman, OK, 73019, USA

11 Department of Horticulture, 421 Life Sciences Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA

12 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering and the Institute of Plant Biology, the Center for Evolutionary Biology, the School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200433, China

13 Institutes of Biomedical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200032, China

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-13

Published: 24 January 2013



Previous studies in basal angiosperms have provided insight into the diversity within the angiosperm lineage and helped to polarize analyses of flowering plant evolution. However, there is still not an experimental system for genetic studies among basal angiosperms to facilitate comparative studies and functional investigation. It would be desirable to identify a basal angiosperm experimental system that possesses many of the features found in existing plant model systems (e.g., Arabidopsis and Oryza).


We have considered all basal angiosperm families for general characteristics important for experimental systems, including availability to the scientific community, growth habit, and membership in a large basal angiosperm group that displays a wide spectrum of phenotypic diversity. Most basal angiosperms are woody or aquatic, thus are not well-suited for large scale cultivation, and were excluded. We further investigated members of Aristolochiaceae for ease of culture, life cycle, genome size, and chromosome number. We demonstrated self-compatibility for Aristolochia elegans and A. fimbriata, and transformation with a GFP reporter construct for Saruma henryi and A. fimbriata. Furthermore, A. fimbriata was easily cultivated with a life cycle of just three months, could be regenerated in a tissue culture system, and had one of the smallest genomes among basal angiosperms. An extensive multi-tissue EST dataset was produced for A. fimbriata that includes over 3.8 million 454 sequence reads.


Aristolochia fimbriata has numerous features that facilitate genetic studies and is suggested as a potential model system for use with a wide variety of technologies. Emerging genetic and genomic tools for A. fimbriata and closely related species can aid the investigation of floral biology, developmental genetics, biochemical pathways important in plant-insect interactions as well as human health, and various other features present in early angiosperms.