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Why is rice not C4?

Nowadays, the type of carbon acquisition pathway named “C4 photosynthesis” is used by several crops, such as maize and sugarcane, and allows thousands of species to thrive in warm habitats. However, as illustrated in our paper published in Photosynthesis Research (link), the history of C4 plants started long before the first plants or animals appeared on Earth, and involved random events, alteration of the atmosphere, developmental enablers and co-option of genes over billions of years.

In this paper, initially aimed at providing material for teaching, we review the most recent literature that can inform us on the history of C4 plants, with a special focus on the evolutionary processes it so wonderfully exemplifies. Based on the evidence accumulated, we discuss the reasons why some plants might not be able to evolve C4 photosynthesis. This aspect is addressed with rice, a species that belongs to a phylogenetic group that completely lacks C4 species despite inhabiting warm environments where this trait would be advantageous.

For a PDF of the paper, email Pascal-Antoine (p.christin@sheffield.ac.uk) or Colin (c.p.osborne@sheffield.ac.uk)

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