Whole-genome microsynteny-based phylogeny of angiosperms

Tao Zhao*, Arthur Zwaenepoel, Jia Yu Xue, Shu Min Kao, Zhen Li, Eric Schranz, Yves Van de Peer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Plant genomes vary greatly in size, organization, and architecture. Such structural differences may be highly relevant for inference of genome evolution dynamics and phylogeny. Indeed, microsynteny—the conservation of local gene content and order—is recognized as a valuable source of phylogenetic information, but its use for the inference of large phylogenies has been limited. Here, by combining synteny network analysis, matrix representation, and maximum likelihood phylogenetic inference, we provide a way to reconstruct phylogenies based on microsynteny information. Both simulations and use of empirical data sets show our method to be accurate, consistent, and widely applicable. As an example, we focus on the analysis of a large-scale whole-genome data set for angiosperms, including more than 120 available high-quality genomes, representing more than 50 different plant families and 30 orders. Our ‘microsynteny-based’ tree is largely congruent with phylogenies proposed based on more traditional sequence alignment-based methods and current phylogenetic classifications but differs for some long-contested and controversial relationships. For instance, our synteny-based tree finds Vitales as early diverging eudicots, Saxifragales within superasterids, and magnoliids as sister to monocots. We discuss how synteny-based phylogenetic inference can complement traditional methods and could provide additional insights into some long-standing controversial phylogenetic relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3498
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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