Parasitic plants are known to discard photosynthesis thus leading to the deletion or loss of the plastid genes. Despite plastid genome reduction in non-photosynthetic plants, some nucleus-encoded proteins are transported back to the plastid to carry out specific functions. In this work, we study such proteins in Rafflesia cantleyi, a member of the holoparasitic genus well-known for producing the largest single flower in the world. Our analyses of three transcriptome datasets, two holoparasites (R. cantleyi and Phelipanche aegyptiaca) and one photosynthetic plant (Arabidopsis thaliana), suggest that holoparasites, such as R. cantleyi, retain some common plastid associated processes such as biosynthesis of amino acids and lipids, but are missing photosynthesis components that can be extensions of these pathways. The reconstruction of two selected biosynthetic pathways involving plastids correlates the trend of plastid retention to pathway complexity - transcriptome evidence for R. cantleyi suggests alternate mechanisms in regulating the plastidial heme and terpenoid backbone biosynthesis pathways. The evolution to holoparasitism from autotrophy trends towards devolving the plastid genes to the nuclear genome despite the functional sites remaining in the plastid, or maintaining non-photosynthetic processes in the plastid, before the eventual loss of the plastid and any site dependent functions.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.