Primula vulgaris (primrose) genome assembly, annotation and gene expression, with comparative genomics on the heterostyly supergene.

gold Gold open access

Primula vulgaris (primrose) exhibits heterostyly: plants produce self-incompatible pin- or thrum-form flowers, with anthers and stigma at reciprocal heights. Darwin concluded that this arrangement promotes insect-mediated cross-pollination; later studies revealed control by a cluster of genes, or supergene, known as the S (Style length) locus. The P. vulgaris S locus is absent from pin plants and hemizygous in thrum plants (thrum-specific); mutation of S locus genes produces self-fertile homostyle flowers with anthers and stigma at equal heights. Here, we present a 411Mb P. vulgaris genome assembly of a homozygous inbred long homostyle, representing ~87% of the genome. We annotate over 24,000 P. vulgaris genes, and reveal more genes up-regulated in thrum than pin flowers. We show reduced genomic read coverage across the S locus in other Primula species, including P. veris, where we define the conserved structure and expression of the S locus genes in thrum. Further analysis reveals the S locus has elevated repeat content (64%) compared to the wider genome (37%). Our studies suggest conservation of S locus genetic architecture in Primula, and provide a platform for identification and evolutionary analysis of the S locus and downstream targets that regulate heterostyly in diverse heterostylous species.