Even the mention of lavender is reminiscent of the flower’s distinct scent. This beautiful flower has always been used in the manufacture of perfumes and essential oils. The aesthetic of the flower has captured the imagination of hundreds around the world. What makes this flower so special? What are the “magical” compounds that give it its unique fragrance? What is the genetic basis of these compounds? These questions have long puzzled scientists.

To find the answers, a group of scientists from China sequenced the genome of lavender, known in the scientific world as Lavandula angustifolia. The team around Dr. Lei Shi, professor at the Beijing Key Plant Resources Laboratory and Botanical Garden, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, was specifically interested in the genetics and diversity of a class of volatile terpenoids produced by lavender.

Terpenoids play an important role in the biology of fragrant flowers, including lavender. In the environment, terpenoids have been shown to attract potential insect pollinators. In real world applications, terpenoids offer their potential benefits, including stress relief and skin conditioning, through products such as essential oils. With this in mind, it is important to understand the basics of terpenoid biosynthesis at the genetic level in order to manipulate lavender and achieve better quality of these compounds.

The team first analyzed the high-quality reference genome data of the Chinese lavender variety ‘Jingxun 2’. Through phylogenetic analysis, they identified genomic events in the evolutionary history of lavender that led to the expansion of terpenoid biosynthetic genes in this species. Their analysis also provided important insights into changes in these genes in relation to changes in the environment under which they grew.

First, the scientists put together the genetic sequences of the Chinese lavender variety. Next, they identified and named or named the genomic regions in the lavender sequence and performed phylogenetic analysis of these sequences to better understand the evolutionary history of lavender. Then they identified the events that affected the entire lavender genome, and particularly the terpenoid-producing genes. Eventually, they associated genes on the lavender genome sequences with various terpenoids found in the plant to build gene-terpenoid networks.

Your results, published in a current issue of Horticultural researchreported the successful assembly of the 894.5 Mb lavender genome sequence spread across 27 chromosomes and could possibly be the best lavender sequence assembly to date. In addition, the scientists were able to show that lavender was only exposed to major genetic events, including two duplications of the entire genome, which allowed them to better adapt and thrive in colder Mediterranean weather conditions.

Dr. Shi explains her observations as follows: “Plants have the ability to duplicate their genomes, and when that happens, the duplicated genes can freely evolve to do other things. This has allowed plants to develop new machines to make a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to ward off attacks by harmful microbes and herbivores, and to attract beneficial species like bees to help with pollination. “Indeed, this statement is supported by Dr. Shi supported by the results of the team study. His team identified gene duplications caused by the aforementioned genetic events, which in turn led to terpenoid diversification. Upon further analysis, they also observed gene clusters that specifically correspond to attractive and defensive terpenoids.

Dr. Shi is enthusiastic about the possible real applications of this work. “The introduction of lavender to China can be traced back to the 1950s by pioneers at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The degradation of cultivated species is worrying; Therefore, there is an urgent need for improved varieties. With a better understanding of the lavender genome, it will be easier for scientists to develop new strains that may produce high-quality essential oils, are highly decorative, and are resistant to pathogens and climatic fluctuations. “He exclaims.

We share the enthusiasm of Dr. Indeed, Shi and Shi can hope that this study paves the way for better varieties of lavender and provides a template for exploring the interactions between volatile plants and the environment.




Jingrui Li, Yiming Wang, Yanmei Dong, Wenying Zhang, Di Wang, Hongtong Bai, Kui Li, Hui Li, and Lei Shi

Title of the original paper

The lavender genome based on chromosomes offers new insights into the evolution of Lamiaceae and terpenoid biosynthesis


Horticultural research


https: //.doi.org /10.1038 /s41438-021-00490-6


Key Plant Resource Laboratory and Beijing Botanical Garden, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiangshan 100093 Beijing, China

University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100015, China

Novogenes Bioinformatics Institute, 100083 Beijing, China

About Professor Lei Shi

Dr. Lei Shi has been a professor at the Key Laboratory of Plant Resources and the Beijing Botanical Garden at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China since 2001. Dr. Shi is specifically interested in researching the basics and uses of aromatic plants and their plant compounds. He received his doctorate in 1999 at the Institute of Botany. He led more than 30 projects; published more than 140 academic papers and books; Obtained 12 federally approved patents; and facilitated the development of eight new certified plant varieties, including four Lavandula species, two Origanum species and two Rosmarinus species.


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