ORCHIDOMICS

Understanding the metabolism of orchids in their environments - omics methods unravel adaptations and symbioses in orchids

Research project funded by the National Science Centre (Poland) in MAESTRO 7 programme
The Beneficiary: University of Gdańsk
Principal investigator: Professor Marc-André Selosse, PhD

Summary

Orchids are very diverse in species number, but also in types of nutrition. Species that rely on photosynthesis in adulthood strikingly germinate underground from very tiny seeds without reserves: at germination, a fungus colonizing them provides all the nutrients required, a nutrition called mycoheterotrophy. Later in development, the plant eventually becomes green and photosynthetic. Yet, the fungus remains associated with the roots, now exchanging mineral resources collected in the soil against plant carbon. Orchids are thus important models when seeking to understand how nutrition and microbial interaction change during plant development.

Interestingly, some orchids remain more or less mycoheterotrophic in adulthood. Some are not green and not photosynthetic: the fungus present in the roots provides them with all the nutrients required, allowing mycoheterotrophy in adulthood. Some species display an intermediate strategy: they are photosynthetic, but receive part of their carbon from the fungus, in addition to mineral resources, enabling them to adapt to living in light-limited forests (mixotrophy). These strategies also exist in other plants, but evolved often in orchids, which are thus interesting models when seeking to understand the mechanisms and evolution of the loss of photosynthesis in plants.

Finally, many orchids are rare or endangered species whose presence is an indicator of ecosystem health, so knowledge of their nutrition and relation to supporting fungi is crucial. Paradoxically, some species live in soils polluted, for example, by heavy metals, as some South Poland populations investigated here, although we do not know if they achieve there a normal physiological status.

ORCHIDOMICS aims at better understanding of these different types of nutrition and the role of the associated fungi, using orchids as models. It concentrates on underground germination, adult roots that interact with fungus, and adult photosynthetic leaves, in orchid species with various types of adult nutrition.

ORCHIDOMICS makes use of the most recent methods, which provide a lot of data from a single sample. First, the characterization of RNAs shows which plant genes are active. Second, extraction and separation of the main molecules (metabolites) provide a view of metabolism in action. The thousands of pieces of information gathered will be handled using computer analyses and statistics to (i) separate relevant data from noise, (ii) collate metabolic and gene expression data, and (iii) compare data obtained from different samples. The handling of unusually large datasets is the first challenge of ORCHIDOMICS. The second challenge is the study of orchids in situ: ORCHIDOMICS is based on limited, non-lethal sampling of orchid parts in natural populations, authorized by sampling permits. Thus, the data will reflect orchid physiology in living conditions.

In more detail, ORCHIDOMICS will investigate the diversity of orchid nutrition types. First, we will compare adult plants from nine species that are fully photosynthetic, partially mycoheterotrophic or fully mycoheterotrophic in adulthood. Second, we will monitor metabolic changes between mycoheterotrophic seedlings and adults in these species. For four species, we will also monitor the modifications produced by two environmental factors: light level and soil pollution by heavy metals.

ORCHIDOMICS will produce a massive dataset that will build a detailed view of the various orchid nutrition types in situ. This will first serve as a unique model to understand how plant nutrition changes with developmental stage, environmental conditions, and during evolution. Second, through better knowledge of orchid biology in realistic conditions, ORCHIDOMICS will help improve their future protection. Finally, it will pave the way to future, more precise analyses of crucial metabolites and genes involved in the different types of nutrition of orchids, and indeed ORCHIDOMICS itself encompasses more genetically detailed analyses.

Team

Name Role Affiliation
Marc-André Selosse, PhD, hab., professor

 CV
Principal investigator National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France; visiting professor in: Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk and Federal University of Vicosa, Brasil.
Julita Minasiewicz, PhD
Project coordinator Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Pierre-Emmanuel Courty, PhD, hab.
Transcriptomic and stable isotope specialist Plant Biology Department, University of Fribourg
Katarzyna Potrykus, PhD, hab.
RNA methods specialist Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Ewa Łojkowska, PhD, hab., professor
Metabolomic supervisor Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology (UG & MUG)
Anna Ihnatowicz, PhD
Metabolite analysis specialist Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology (UG & MUG)
Regis Debruyne, PhD
Genomic specialist National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France
Marcin Pietras, PhD
Fungal barcoding specialist Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Izabela Makałowska, PhD, hab., professor
Bioinformatic supervisor Faculty of Biology, Institute of Anthropology, Department of Integrated Genomics, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan
Post-doc Bioinformatic specialist
Magdalena Remisiewicz, PhD, hab.
Statistics specialist Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Alicja Robionek, MSc
Fieldwork coordinator Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Agnieszka Błońska, PhD
Fieldwork expert Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Silesia, Katowice
Teresa Nowak, PhD
Fieldwork expert Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Silesia, Katowice
Bogusław Binkiewicz, PhD
Fieldwork expert Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University, Cracow
Katarzyna Wszałek-Rożek, MSc
Fieldwork expert Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Joanna Gołębiewska, MSc
Fieldwork expert Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Anna Kuczyńska, MSc
Fieldwork expert Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Piotr Mleczko, PhD, hab.
Orchid seeds germination specialist Institute of Botany, Jagiellonian University, Cracow
Maciej Kozak, PhD
Orchid seeds germination specialist Institute of Botany, Jagiellonian University, Cracow
Alzbeta Novotna, PhD
PhD student Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk
Michał May, MSc
PhD student Faculty of Biology, University of Gdansk

Publications

Gallery

Cephalanthera damasonium - albino specimen (by J. Gołębiewska)

Cephalanthera damasonium - mixotrophic orchid (by J. Gołębiewska)

Neottia nidus-avis - mycoheterotrophic orchid (by A. Kuczyńska)

Epipactis atrorubens - mixotrophic orchid (by J. Gołębiewska)

Platanthera bifolia - autotrophic orchid (by J. Gołębiewska)

Epipogium aphyllum - rare mycoheterotrophic orchid (by E. Krawczyk)

Fieldwork, Trzebinia (by A. Robionek)

Fieldwork, Miechowska Highland (by A. Kuczyńska)

sowing orchid seed "in situ" (by J. Minasiewicz)

Inocybe - species of this genus form symbiotic relationships with Epipogium aphyllum (by J. Gołębiewska)

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