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1.  The Mitochondrial Genome of the Lycophyte Huperzia squarrosa: The Most Archaic Form in Vascular Plants 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35168.
Mitochondrial genomes have maintained some bacterial features despite their residence within eukaryotic cells for approximately two billion years. One of these features is the frequent presence of polycistronic operons. In land plants, however, it has been shown that all sequenced vascular plant chondromes lack large polycistronic operons while bryophyte chondromes have many of them. In this study, we provide the completely sequenced mitochondrial genome of a lycophyte, from Huperzia squarrosa, which is a member of the sister group to all other vascular plants. The genome, at a size of 413,530 base pairs, contains 66 genes and 32 group II introns. In addition, it has 69 pseudogene fragments for 24 of the 40 protein- and rRNA-coding genes. It represents the most archaic form of mitochondrial genomes of all vascular plants. In particular, it has one large conserved gene cluster containing up to 10 ribosomal protein genes, which likely represents a polycistronic operon but has been disrupted and greatly reduced in the chondromes of other vascular plants. It also has the least rearranged gene order in comparison to the chondromes of other vascular plants. The genome is ancestral in vascular plants in several other aspects: the gene content resembling those of charophytes and most bryophytes, all introns being cis-spliced, a low level of RNA editing, and lack of foreign DNA of chloroplast or nuclear origin.
PMCID: PMC3325193  PMID: 22511984
2.  The Mitochondrial Genomes of the Early Land Plants Treubia lacunosa and Anomodon rugelii: Dynamic and Conservative Evolution 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25836.
Early land plant mitochondrial genomes captured important changes of mitochondrial genome evolution when plants colonized land. The chondromes of seed plants show several derived characteristics, e.g., large genome size variation, rapid intra-genomic rearrangement, abundant introns, and highly variable levels of RNA editing. On the other hand, the chondromes of charophytic algae are still largely ancestral in these aspects, resembling those of early eukaryotes. When the transition happened has been a long-standing question in studies of mitochondrial genome evolution. Here we report complete mitochondrial genome sequences from an early-diverging liverwort, Treubia lacunosa, and a late-evolving moss, Anomodon rugelii. The two genomes, 151,983 and 104,239 base pairs in size respectively, contain standard sets of protein coding genes for respiration and protein synthesis, as well as nearly full sets of rRNA and tRNA genes found in the chondromes of the liverworts Marchantia polymorpha and Pleurozia purpurea and the moss Physcomitrella patens. The gene orders of these two chondromes are identical to those of the other liverworts and moss. Their intron contents, with all cis-spliced group I or group II introns, are also similar to those in the previously sequenced liverwort and moss chondromes. These five chondromes plus the two from the hornworts Phaeoceros laevis and Megaceros aenigmaticus for the first time allowed comprehensive comparative analyses of structure and organization of mitochondrial genomes both within and across the three major lineages of bryophytes. These analyses led to the conclusion that the mitochondrial genome experienced dynamic evolution in genome size, gene content, intron acquisition, gene order, and RNA editing during the origins of land plants and their major clades. However, evolution of this organellar genome has remained rather conservative since the origin and initial radiation of early land plants, except within vascular plants.
PMCID: PMC3187804  PMID: 21998706
3.  Taking the First Steps towards a Standard for Reporting on Phylogenies: Minimal Information about a Phylogenetic Analysis (MIAPA) 
In the eight years since phylogenomics was introduced as the intersection of genomics and phylogenetics, the field has provided fundamental insights into gene function, genome history and organismal relationships. The utility of phylogenomics is growing with the increase in the number and diversity of taxa for which whole genome and large transcriptome sequence sets are being generated. We assert that the synergy between genomic and phylogenetic perspectives in comparative biology would be enhanced by the development and refinement of minimal reporting standards for phylogenetic analyses. Encouraged by the development of the Minimum Information About a Microarray Experiment (MIAME) standard, we propose a similar roadmap for the development of a Minimal Information About a Phylogenetic Analysis (MIAPA) standard. Key in the successful development and implementation of such a standard will be broad participation by developers of phylogenetic analysis software, phylogenetic database developers, practitioners of phylogenomics, and journal editors.
PMCID: PMC3167193  PMID: 16901231
4.  Did RNA editing in plant organellar genomes originate under natural selection or through genetic drift? 
Biology Direct  2008;3:43.
The C↔U substitution types of RNA editing have been observed frequently in organellar genomes of land plants. Although various attempts have been made to explain why such a seemingly inefficient genetic mechanism would have evolved, no satisfactory explanation exists in our view. In this study, we examined editing patterns in chloroplast genomes of the hornwort Anthoceros formosae and the fern Adiantum capillus-veneris and in mitochondrial genomes of the angiosperms Arabidopsis thaliana, Beta vulgaris and Oryza sativa, to gain an understanding of the question of how RNA editing originated.
We found that 1) most editing sites were distributed at the 2nd and 1st codon positions, 2) editing affected codons that resulted in larger hydrophobicity and molecular size changes much more frequently than those with little change involved, 3) editing uniformly increased protein hydrophobicity, 4) editing occurred more frequently in ancestrally T-rich sequences, which were more abundant in genes encoding membrane-bound proteins with many hydrophobic amino acids than in genes encoding soluble proteins, and 5) editing occurred most often in genes found to be under strong selective constraint.
These analyses show that editing mostly affects functionally important and evolutionarily conserved codon positions, codons and genes encoding membrane-bound proteins. In particular, abundance of RNA editing in plant organellar genomes may be associated with disproportionately large percentages of genes in these two genomes that encode membrane-bound proteins, which are rich in hydrophobic amino acids and selectively constrained. These data support a hypothesis that natural selection imposed by protein functional constraints has contributed to selective fixation of certain editing sites and maintenance of the editing activity in plant organelles over a period of more than four hundred millions years. The retention of genes encoding RNA editing activity may be driven by forces that shape nucleotide composition equilibrium in two organellar genomes of these plants. Nevertheless, the causes of lineage-specific occurrence of a large portion of RNA editing sites remain to be determined.
This article was reviewed by Michael Gray (nominated by Laurence Hurst), Kirsten Krause (nominated by Martin Lercher), and Jeffery Mower (nominated by David Ardell).
PMCID: PMC2584032  PMID: 18939975
5.  Mitochondrial matR sequences help to resolve deep phylogenetic relationships in rosids 
Rosids are a major clade in the angiosperms containing 13 orders and about one-third of angiosperm species. Recent molecular analyses recognized two major groups (i.e., fabids with seven orders and malvids with three orders). However, phylogenetic relationships within the two groups and among fabids, malvids, and potentially basal rosids including Geraniales, Myrtales, and Crossosomatales remain to be resolved with more data and a broader taxon sampling. In this study, we obtained DNA sequences of the mitochondrial matR gene from 174 species representing 72 families of putative rosids and examined phylogenetic relationships and phylogenetic utility of matR in rosids. We also inferred phylogenetic relationships within the "rosid clade" based on a combined data set of 91 taxa and four genes including matR, two plastid genes (rbcL, atpB), and one nuclear gene (18S rDNA).
Comparison of mitochondrial matR and two plastid genes (rbcL and atpB) showed that the synonymous substitution rate in matR was approximately four times slower than those of rbcL and atpB; however, the nonsynonymous substitution rate in matR was relatively high, close to its synonymous substitution rate, indicating that the matR has experienced a relaxed evolutionary history. Analyses of our matR sequences supported the monophyly of malvids and most orders of the rosids. However, fabids did not form a clade; instead, the COM clade of fabids (Celastrales, Oxalidales, Malpighiales, and Huaceae) was sister to malvids. Analyses of the four-gene data set suggested that Geraniales and Myrtales were successively sister to other rosids, and that Crossosomatales were sister to malvids.
Compared to plastid genes such as rbcL and atpB, slowly evolving matR produced less homoplasious but not less informative substitutions. Thus, matR appears useful in higher-level angiosperm phylogenetics. Analysis of matR alone identified a novel deep relationship within rosids, the grouping of the COM clade of fabids and malvids, which was not resolved by any previous molecular analyses but recently suggested by floral structural features. Our four-gene analysis supported the placements of Geraniales, Myrtales at basal nodes of the rosid clade and placed Crossosomatales as sister to malvids. We also suggest that the core part of rosids should include fabids, malvids and Crossosomatales.
PMCID: PMC2222252  PMID: 17996110
6.  Multiple major increases and decreases in mitochondrial substitution rates in the plant family Geraniaceae 
Rates of synonymous nucleotide substitutions are, in general, exceptionally low in plant mitochondrial genomes, several times lower than in chloroplast genomes, 10–20 times lower than in plant nuclear genomes, and 50–100 times lower than in many animal mitochondrial genomes. Several cases of moderate variation in mitochondrial substitution rates have been reported in plants, but these mostly involve correlated changes in chloroplast and/or nuclear substitution rates and are therefore thought to reflect whole-organism forces rather than ones impinging directly on the mitochondrial mutation rate. Only a single case of extensive, mitochondrial-specific rate changes has been described, in the angiosperm genus Plantago.
We explored a second potential case of highly accelerated mitochondrial sequence evolution in plants. This case was first suggested by relatively poor hybridization of mitochondrial gene probes to DNA of Pelargonium hortorum (the common geranium). We found that all eight mitochondrial genes sequenced from P. hortorum are exceptionally divergent, whereas chloroplast and nuclear divergence is unexceptional in P. hortorum. Two mitochondrial genes were sequenced from a broad range of taxa of variable relatedness to P. hortorum, and absolute rates of mitochondrial synonymous substitutions were calculated on each branch of a phylogenetic tree of these taxa. We infer one major, ~10-fold increase in the mitochondrial synonymous substitution rate at the base of the Pelargonium family Geraniaceae, and a subsequent ~10-fold rate increase early in the evolution of Pelargonium. We also infer several moderate to major rate decreases following these initial rate increases, such that the mitochondrial substitution rate has returned to normally low levels in many members of the Geraniaceae. Finally, we find unusually little RNA editing of Geraniaceae mitochondrial genes, suggesting high levels of retroprocessing in their history.
The existence of major, mitochondrial-specific changes in rates of synonymous substitutions in the Geraniaceae implies major and reversible underlying changes in the mitochondrial mutation rate in this family. Together with the recent report of a similar pattern of rate heterogeneity in Plantago, these findings indicate that the mitochondrial mutation rate is a more plastic character in plants than previously realized. Many molecular factors could be responsible for these dramatic changes in the mitochondrial mutation rate, including nuclear gene mutations affecting the fidelity and efficacy of mitochondrial DNA replication and/or repair and – consistent with the lack of RNA editing – exceptionally high levels of "mutagenic" retroprocessing. That the mitochondrial mutation rate has returned to normally low levels in many Geraniaceae raises the possibility that, akin to the ephemerality of mutator strains in bacteria, selection favors a low mutation rate in plant mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC1343592  PMID: 16368004
7.  Phylogenetic inference in Rafflesiales: the influence of rate heterogeneity and horizontal gene transfer 
The phylogenetic relationships among the holoparasites of Rafflesiales have remained enigmatic for over a century. Recent molecular phylogenetic studies using the mitochondrial matR gene placed Rafflesia, Rhizanthes and Sapria (Rafflesiaceae s. str.) in the angiosperm order Malpighiales and Mitrastema (Mitrastemonaceae) in Ericales. These phylogenetic studies did not, however, sample two additional groups traditionally classified within Rafflesiales (Apodantheaceae and Cytinaceae). Here we provide molecular phylogenetic evidence using DNA sequence data from mitochondrial and nuclear genes for representatives of all genera in Rafflesiales.
Our analyses indicate that the phylogenetic affinities of the large-flowered clade and Mitrastema, ascertained using mitochondrial matR, are congruent with results from nuclear SSU rDNA when these data are analyzed using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. The relationship of Cytinaceae to Malvales was recovered in all analyses. Relationships between Apodanthaceae and photosynthetic angiosperms varied depending upon the data partition: Malvales (3-gene), Cucurbitales (matR) or Fabales (atp1). The latter incongruencies suggest that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) may be affecting the mitochondrial gene topologies. The lack of association between Mitrastema and Ericales using atp1 is suggestive of HGT, but greater sampling within eudicots is needed to test this hypothesis further.
Rafflesiales are not monophyletic but composed of three or four independent lineages (families): Rafflesiaceae, Mitrastemonaceae, Apodanthaceae and Cytinaceae. Long-branch attraction appears to be misleading parsimony analyses of nuclear small-subunit rDNA data, but model-based methods (maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses) recover a topology that is congruent with the mitochondrial matR gene tree, thus providing compelling evidence for organismal relationships. Horizontal gene transfer appears to be influencing only some taxa and some mitochondrial genes, thus indicating that the process is acting at the single gene (not whole genome) level.
PMCID: PMC528834  PMID: 15496229

Results 1-7 (7)