, Volume 250, Issue 5, pp 1461–1474 | Cite as

Root diversity in sesame (Sesamum indicum L.): insights into the morphological, anatomical and gene expression profiles

  • Ruqi Su
  • Rong Zhou
  • Marie Ali Mmadi
  • Donghua Li
  • Lu Qin
  • Aili Liu
  • Jianqiang Wang
  • Yuan Gao
  • Mengyuan Wei
  • Lisong Shi
  • Ziming Wu
  • Jun You
  • Xiurong ZhangEmail author
  • Komivi DossaEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

Sesame harbors a large diversity in root morphological and anatomical traits and a high root biomass improves the plant aboveground biomass as well as the seed yield.

Sesame provides one of the most nutritious and healthy vegetable oils, sparking an increasing demand of its seeds. However, with the low yield and productivity of sesame, there is still a huge gap between the seed demand and supply. Improving the root system has a high potential to increase crop productivity, but information on the diversity of the sesame root systems is still lacking. In this study, 40 diverse sesame varieties were grown in soil and hydroponics systems and the diversity of the root system was investigated. The results showed that sesame holds a large root morphological and anatomical diversity, which can be harnessed in breeding programmes. Based on the clustering of the genotypes in hydroponics and soil culture systems, we found that similar genotypes were commonly clustered either in the small-root or in the big-root group, indicating that the hydroponics system can be employed for a large-scale root phenotyping. Our results further revealed that the root biomass positively contributes to increased seed yield in sesame, based on multi-environmental trials. By comparing the root transcriptome of two contrasting genotypes, 2897 differentially expressed genes were detected and they were enriched in phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, starch and sucrose metabolism, stilbenoid, diarylheptanoid and gingerol biosynthesis, flavonoid biosynthesis, suggesting that these pathways are crucial for sesame root growth and development. Overall, this study sheds light on the diversity of sesame root system and offers the basis for improving root traits and increasing sesame seed yield.


Candidate genes Phenotyping Root morphology Sesame Yield improvement 



Shoot dry weight (g)


Root dry weight (g)


Root-shoot ratio (–)


Root length (cm)


Root surface area (cm2)


Root number (–)


Root volume (cm3)


Main root length (cm)


Main root diameter (cm)



This work was supported by the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-14), the Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Project of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS-ASTIP-2016-OCRI), the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund (1610172018007) and the Peanut and Sesame Industry Technology System of Jiangxi, China (JXARS-18).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

425_2019_3242_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 34 kb)
425_2019_3242_MOESM2_ESM.tif (101 kb)
Correlation between transcriptome data and qRT-PCR results based on log2fold change of 10 selected genes (TIFF 100 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oil Crops Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Key Laboratory of Biology and Genetic Improvement of Oil Crops, Ministry of AgricultureWuhanChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology, Ecology and Genetic Breeding, Ministry of Education/College of AgronomyJiangxi Agricultural UniversityNanchangChina

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