1. Computational and Systems Biology
  2. Plant Biology
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Evolution of C4 photosynthesis predicted by constraint-based modelling

  1. Mary-Ann Blätke  Is a corresponding author
  2. Andrea Bräutigam
  1. Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Germany
Research Article
  • Cited 3
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e49305 doi: 10.7554/eLife.49305


Constraint-based modelling (CBM) is a powerful tool for the analysis of evolutionary trajectories. Evolution, especially evolution in the distant past, is not easily accessible to laboratory experimentation. Modelling can provide a window into evolutionary processes by allowing the examination of selective pressures which lead to particular optimal solutions in the model. To study the evolution of C4 photosynthesis from a ground state of C3 photosynthesis, we initially construct a C3 model. After duplication into two cells to reflect typical C4 leaf architecture, we allow the model to predict the optimal metabolic solution under various conditions. The model thus identifies resource limitation in conjunction with high photorespiratory flux as a selective pressure relevant to the evolution of C4. It also predicts that light availability and distribution play a role in guiding the evolutionary choice of possible decarboxylation enzymes. The data shows evolutionary CBM in eukaryotes predicts molecular evolution with precision.

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Author details

  1. Mary-Ann Blätke

    Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Seeland OT Gatersleben, Germany
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-4790-7377
  2. Andrea Bräutigam

    Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Seeland OT Gatersleben, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Daniel J Kliebenstein, University of California, Davis, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: June 13, 2019
  2. Accepted: November 8, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 4, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 10, 2019 (version 2)


© 2019, Blätke & Bräutigam

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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