Transcriptomic heterochrony and completely cleistogamous flower development in the mycoheterotrophic orchid Gastrodia

Kenji Suetsugu, Kenji Fukushima, Takashi Makino, Shuka Ikematsu, Tomoaki Sakamoto, Seisuke Kimura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Cleistogamy, in which plants can reproduce via self-fertilization within permanently closed flowers, has evolved in > 30 angiosperm lineages; however, consistent with Darwin's doubts about its existence, complete cleistogamy – the production of only cleistogamous flowers – has rarely been recognized. Thus far, the achlorophyllous orchid genus, Gastrodia, is the only known genus with several plausible completely cleistogamous species. Here, we analyzed the floral developmental transcriptomes of two recently evolved, completely cleistogamous Gastrodia species and their chasmogamous sister species to elucidate the possible changes involved in producing common cleistogamous traits. The ABBA-BABA test did not support introgression and protein sequence convergence as evolutionary mechanisms leading to cleistogamy, leaving convergence in gene expression as a plausible mechanism. Regarding transcriptomic differentiation, the two cleistogamous species had common modifications in the expression of developmental regulators, exhibiting a gene family-wide signature of convergent expression changes in MADS-box genes. Our transcriptomic pseudotime analysis revealed a prolonged juvenile state and eventual maturation, a heterochronic pattern consistent with partial neoteny, in cleistogamous flower development. These findings indicate that transcriptomic partial neoteny, arising from changes in the expression of conserved developmental regulators, might have contributed to the rapid and repeated evolution of cleistogamous flowers in Gastrodia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-338
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan


  • Gastrodia
  • Orchidaceae
  • complete cleistogamy
  • convergent evolution
  • heterochrony
  • mycoheterotrophy
  • partial neoteny
  • selfing syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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