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Genomics of the two main plant components of Ayahuasca tea (Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis): unraveling the genomic structure and evolution, functional and taxonomic diversity, and entheogen potential


More than 20 years after the sequencing of the human genome, genomics is a mature science. Since the emergence of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques, hundreds of animal and plant genomes have been sequenced and better understood. However, these studies still have a high cost, demanding a team trained in genomics and bioinformatics, involving a long time of analysis. Therefore, the genetic constitution of many organisms of particular interest to certain peoples, cultures, and to our rich biodiversity, remains unexplored. Ayahuasca is the central ritual of several Amazonian indigenous tribes. It has always been related to the vision of the spiritual world and the healing of physical and psychic ailments. Recently, medical science has recognized the importance of some of the components of this tea for the treatment of chronic psychiatric diseases, such as Alzheimer's, dementia, bipolar disorder, and depression, among others. In this project, we intend to sequence and analyze the complete nuclear genomes of the two plants that constitute the main components of this beverage in order to better understand the genomics and functional biology and, also, to describe the pathways related to the production of metabolites of relevance in biomedicine. The ayahuasca tea is made from a preparation made from the Mariri vine, Banisteropsis caapi (Malpighiaceae), and the leaves of the Chacrona, Psychotria viridis (Rubiaceae). We intend to generate the genomic and transcriptomic sequence of these two plants using the PacBio Sequel IIe HiFi and Illumina HiC (Chromosome conformation capture) platforms. We aim to start the genomic search in these plants of cultural and biomedical interest, (i) assembling and annotating the nuclear and organellar genomes, (ii) producing complete data of the primary genes that produce the active compounds in the secondary metabolism pathways of both plants. In this case, we will study the structure and evolution of genes associated with dimethyltryptamine (DMT) biosynthetic pathways in Chacrona and alkaloids inhibitors of Monoamine Oxidase in Mariri. Together these compounds produce the entheogenic experience provided by the traditional Amazonian beverage. In addition, we also intend (iii) to catalog and identify new genes and enzymes possibly related to the phytotherapeutic and psychoactive effects of these entheogens, (iv) to perform comparative, functional, structural, and evolutionary genomic analyses of these plants, focusing on paleopolyploidy events, fractionation, contraction, and expansion of transposable elements and gene families of interest from an evolutionary and functional point of view, (v) to describe molecular markers to allow the population, phytogeographic and phylogenetic study of these plants since, from the taxonomic point of view, different traditional communities recognize many separate morphotypes (or species) for Mariri. Plant samples have already been collected and the material is stored in -80oC freezers, as well as high molecular weight DNA extracted and quantified. We also present preliminary results of PacBio HiFi sequencing, where it was possible to elucidate the organellar genome of Chacrona and suggest that it is a polyploid genome. This project is also based on the ethical principle of respecting, exalting, and understanding the traditional Amazonian indigenous culture and promoting a fraternal alliance between traditional Amerindian culture and scientific culture. Therefore, we aim to generate unprecedented genomic, evolutionary and functional information for these two plants, which despite being part of our biodiversity, have been little explored from a molecular, genomic and taxonomic point of view. (AU)

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