Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a high-yield starch root crop with a high tolerance to poor soil conditions and abiotic stress. A woody shrub native to South America, cassava is now extensively cultivated across tropical and sub-tropical regions, and is economically and socially significant. Tubby-like proteins (TLPs) are ubiquitous in eukaryotes yet there have only been a handful of functional studies of TLP genes in plants. These studies have identified roles in abiotic stress tolerance in plant species including rice, chickpea and Arabidopsis, however very little is known about the function of TLPs in cassava, even though the genome has been sequenced.
In a recent study published in AoBP, Dong et al. identify and characterise the cassava TLP gene family, MeTLP, at the genomic level. The family was found to contain 13 members and these are grouped into the A and B subfamilies. The cassava TLPs show some clear differences from TLP genes of most other studied plants, including wheat and maize, resulting from the duplication of certain genes between 10 and 127 million years ago. Expression of MeTLPs indicates that they are however still related to abiotic stress tolerance. This study is the first report of MeTLPs of cassava, providing clues for further study on the molecular mechanism of cassava stress resistance. Specifically, the authors hope that their work will lead to functional studies that will validate the precise roles of MeTLPs.