Platycladus orientalis (Cupressaceae) is an old-growth tree species which distributed in the imperial parks and ancient temples in Beijing, China. We aim to (1) examine the genetic diversity and reproductive traits of old-growth and young populations of P. orientalis to ascertain whether the older populations contain a higher genetic diversity, more private alleles and a higher reproductive output compared with younger populations; (2) determine the relationships between the age of the population and the genetic diversity and reproductive traits; and (3) determine whether the imperial parks and ancient temples played an important role in maintaining the reproductive capacity and genetic diversity of Platycladus orientalis.
Samples from seven young (younger than 100 yrs.) and nine old-growth (older than 300 yrs.) artificial populations were collected. For comparison, three young and two old-growth natural populations were also sampled. Nine microsatellite loci were used to analyze genetic diversity parameters. These parameters were calculated using FSTAT version 2.9.3 and GenAlex v 6.41.
The old-growth artificial populations of P. orientalis have significantly higher genetic diversity than younger artificial populations and similar levels to those in extant natural populations. The imperial parks and ancient temples, which have protected these old-growth trees for centuries, have played an important role in maintaining the genetic diversity and reproductive capacity of this tree species.
A candidate gene approach was used to identify levels of nucleotide diversity and to identify genes departing from neutral expectations in coniferous species of the Alpine European forest. Twelve samples were collected from four species that dominate montane and subalpine forests throughout Europe: Abies alba Mill, Larix decidua Mill, Pinus cembra L., and Pinus mugo Turra. A total of 800 genes, originally resequenced in Pinus taeda L., were resequenced across 12 independent trees for each of the four species. Genes were assigned to two categories, candidate and control, defined through homology-based searches to Arabidopsis. Estimates of nucleotide diversity per site varied greatly between polymorphic candidate genes (range: 0.0004–0.1295) and among species (range: 0.0024–0.0082), but were within the previously established ranges for conifers. Tests of neutrality using stringent significance thresholds, performed under the standard neutral model, revealed one to seven outlier loci for each species. Some of these outliers encode proteins that are involved with plant stress responses and form the basis for further evolutionary enquiries.
candidate gene; neutrality tests; nucleotide diversity; single nucleotide polymorphisms
Genetic markers and linkage mapping are basic prerequisites for comparative genetic analyses, QTL detection and map-based cloning. A large number of mapping populations have been developed for oak, but few gene-based markers are available for constructing integrated genetic linkage maps and comparing gene order and QTL location across related species.
We developed a set of 573 expressed sequence tag-derived simple sequence repeats (EST-SSRs) and located 397 markers (EST-SSRs and genomic SSRs) on the 12 oak chromosomes (2n = 2x = 24) on the basis of Mendelian segregation patterns in 5 full-sib mapping pedigrees of two species: Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) and Quercus petraea (sessile oak). Consensus maps for the two species were constructed and aligned. They showed a high degree of macrosynteny between these two sympatric European oaks. We assessed the transferability of EST-SSRs to other Fagaceae genera and a subset of these markers was mapped in Castanea sativa, the European chestnut. Reasonably high levels of macrosynteny were observed between oak and chestnut. We also obtained diversity statistics for a subset of EST-SSRs, to support further population genetic analyses with gene-based markers. Finally, based on the orthologous relationships between the oak, Arabidopsis, grape, poplar, Medicago, and soybean genomes and the paralogous relationships between the 12 oak chromosomes, we propose an evolutionary scenario of the 12 oak chromosomes from the eudicot ancestral karyotype.
This study provides map locations for a large set of EST-SSRs in two oak species of recognized biological importance in natural ecosystems. This first step toward the construction of a gene-based linkage map will facilitate the assignment of future genome scaffolds to pseudo-chromosomes. This study also provides an indication of the potential utility of new gene-based markers for population genetics and comparative mapping within and beyond the Fagaceae.
Norway spruce is widely distributed across Europe and the predominant tree of the Alpine region. Fast growth and the fact that timber can be harvested cost-effectively in relatively young populations define its status as one of the economically most important tree species of Northern Europe. In this study, EST derived simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were developed for the assessment of putative functional diversity in Austrian Norway spruce stands.
SSR sequences were identified by analyzing 14,022 publicly available EST sequences. Tri-nucleotide repeat motifs were most abundant in the data set followed by penta- and hexa-nucleotide repeats. Specific primer pairs were designed for sixty loci. Among these, 27 displayed polymorphism in a testing population of 16 P. abies individuals sampled across Austria and in an additional screening population of 96 P. abies individuals from two geographically distinct Austrian populations. Allele numbers per locus ranged from two to 17 with observed heterozygosity ranging from 0.075 to 0.99.
We have characterized variable EST SSR markers for Norway spruce detected in expressed genes. Due to their moderate to high degree of variability in the two tested screening populations, these newly developed SSR markers are well suited for the analysis of stress related functional variation present in Norway spruce populations.
Juniperus excelsa constitutes a precious woody species of high ecological value able to grow up to Mountain treeline around the Mediterranean. Nuclear microsatellites were used to shed light on genetic diversity and differentiation of different Mediterranean populations. This information is essential in planning conservation strategies and reforestation programs.
Background and aims
Juniperus excelsa is an important woody species in the high mountain ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean Basin where it constitutes the only coniferous species found at the tree line. The genetic diversity within and among J. excelsa populations of the eastern Mediterranean Basin is studied in the light of their historical fragmentation.
Nuclear microsatellites originally developed for Juniperus communis and J. przewalskii were tested on 320 individuals from 12 different populations originating from Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and the Ukraine.
Among the 31 nuclear microsatellite primers tested, only three produced specific amplification products, with orthology confirmed by sequence analysis. They were then used for genetic diversity studies. The mean number of alleles and the expected heterozygosity means were Na=8.78 and He=0.76, respectively. The fixation index showed a significant deviation from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium and an excess of homozygotes (FIS=0.27–0.56). A moderate level of genetic differentiation was observed among the populations (FST=0.075, P<0.001). The most differentiated populations corresponded to old vestigial stands found at the tree line (>2000 m) in Lebanon. These populations were differentiated from the other populations that are grouped into three sub-clusters.
High levels of genetic diversity were observed at species and population levels. The high level of differentiation in the high-mountain Lebanese populations reflects a long period of isolation or possibly a different origin. The admixture observed in other populations from Lebanon suggests a more recent separation from the Turkish–southeastern European populations.
Tropical trees undergo severe stress through seasonal drought and flooding, and the ability of these species to respond may be a major factor in their survival in tropical ecosystems, particularly in relation to global climate change. Aquaporins are involved in the regulation of water flow and have been shown to be involved in drought response; they may therefore play a major adaptive role in these species. We describe genetic diversity in the PIP sub-family of the widespread gene family of Aquaporins in five Neotropical tree species covering four botanical families.
PIP Aquaporin subfamily genes were isolated, and their DNA sequence polymorphisms characterised in natural populations. Sequence data were analysed with statistical tests of standard neutral equilibrium and demographic scenarios simulated to compare with the observed results. Chloroplast SSRs were also used to test demographic transitions. Most gene fragments are highly polymorphic and display signatures of balancing selection or bottlenecks; chloroplast SSR markers have significant statistics that do not conform to expectations for population bottlenecks. Although not incompatible with a purely demographic scenario, the combination of all tests tends to favour a selective interpretation of extant gene diversity.
Tropical tree PIP genes may generally undergo balancing selection, which may maintain high levels of genetic diversity at these loci. Genetic variation at PIP genes may represent a response to variable environmental conditions.
The quality and market price of truffles vary with the species and, traditionally, the place of origin. The premium species Tuber magnatum produces white truffles and has a patchy distribution restricted to Italy and some Balkan areas. We used polymorphic microsatellites to evaluate 316 specimens grouped into 26 populations sampled across the species' geographic range to determine if natural populations of T. magnatum are genetically differentiated. We found that the southernmost and the northwesternmost populations were significantly differentiated from the rest of the populations. The simple sequence repeat data also could be used to make inferences about the postglacial T. magnatum expansion pattern. This study is the first to identify a genetic and phylogeographic structure in T. magnatum. The presence of a genetic structure can be of practical interest in tracing truffle populations according to their geographic origin for marketing strategies. Evidence for extensive outcrossing in field populations of T. magnatum also is provided for the first time.
Waxy maize (Zea mays L. var. certaina Kulesh), with many excellent characters in terms of starch composition and economic value, has grown in China for a long history and its production has increased dramatically in recent decades. However, the evolution and origin of waxy maize still remains unclear. We studied the genetic diversity of Chinese waxy maize including typical landraces and inbred lines by SSR analysis and the results showed a wide genetic diversity in the Chinese waxy maize germplasm. We analyzed the origin and evolution of waxy maize by sequencing 108 samples, and downloading 52 sequences from GenBank for the waxy locus in a number of accessions from genus Zea. A sharp reduction of nucleotide diversity and significant neutrality tests (Tajima’s D and Fu and Li’s F*) were observed at the waxy locus in Chinese waxy maize but not in nonglutinous maize. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that Chinese waxy maize originated from the cultivated flint maize and most of the modern waxy maize inbred lines showed a distinct independent origin and evolution process compared with the germplasm from Southwest China. The results indicated that an agronomic trait can be quickly improved to meet production demand by selection.
Understanding which genes have evolved rapidly with the recent tree speciation in arid habitats can provide valuable insights into different adaptation mechanisms. We employed a comparative evolutionary analysis of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from two desert poplars, Populus pruinosa and P. euphratica, which diverged in the recent past. Following an approach taken previously with P. euphratica, we conducted a deep transcriptomic analysis of P. pruinosa. To maximize representation of conditional transcripts, mRNA was obtained from living tissues of two types of callus and desert-grown trees. De novo assembly generated 114,866 high-quality unique sequences using Solexa sequence data. Following assembly we were able to identify, with high confidence, 2859 orthologous sequence pairs between the two species. Based on the ratio of nonsynonymous (Ka) to synonymous (Ks) substitutions, we identified a total of 84 (2.9%) ortholog pairs exhibiting rapid evolution with signs of strong selection (Ka/Ks>1). Genes homologous to these ortholog pairs in model species are mainly involved in ‘responses to stress’, ‘ubiquitin-dependent protein catabolic processes’, and ‘biological regulation’. Finally, we examined the expression patterns of candidate genes with rapid evolution in response to salt stress. Only one pair of orthologs up-regulated their expression in both species while three and four genes were found to up-regulated in P. pruinosa and in P. euphratica respectively. Our findings together suggest that the genes at the same category or network but with differentiated expressions or functions may have evolved rapidly during adaptive divergence of the two species to differentiated salty desert habitats.
The origin of extraordinarily rich biodiversity in tropical forests is often attributed to evolution under stable climatic conditions over a long period or to climatic fluctuations during the recent Quaternary period. Here, we test these two hypotheses using Dracaena cambodiana, a plant species distributed in paleotropical forests.
We analyzed nucleotide sequence data of two chloroplast DNA (cpDNA: atpB-rbcL and trnD-trnT) regions and genotype data of six nuclear microsatellites from 15 populations (140 and 363 individuals, respectively) distributed in Indochina Peninsular and Hainan Island to infer the patterns of genetic diversity and phylogeographic structure. The population bottleneck and genetic drift were estimated based upon nuclear microsatellites data using the software programs BOTTLENECK and 2MOD. The lineage divergence times and past population dynamics based on cpDNA data were estimated using coalescent-based isolation-with-migration (IMa) and BEAST software programs.
A significant phylogeographic structure (NST = 0.876, GST = 0.796, FST-SSR = 0.329, RST = 0.449; NST>GST, RST>FST-SSR, P<0.05) and genetic differentiation among populations were detected. Bottleneck analyses and Bayesian skyline plot suggested recent population reduction. The cpDNA haplotype network revealed the ancestral populations from the southern Indochina region expanded to northward. The most recent ancestor divergence time of D. cambodiana dated back to the Tertiary era and rapid diversification of terminal lineages corresponded to the Quaternary period.
The results indicated that the present distribution of genetic diversity in D. cambodiana was an outcome of Tertiary dispersal and rapid divergence during the Quaternary period under limited gene flow influenced by the uplift of Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau and Quaternary climatic fluctuations respectively. Evolutionary processes, such as extinction-recolonization during the Pleistocene may have contributed to the fast diversification in D. cambodiana.
Conservation priorities for Prunus africana, a tree species found across Afromontane regions, which is of great commercial interest internationally and of local value for rural communities, were defined with the aid of spatial analyses applied to a set of georeferenced molecular marker data (chloroplast and nuclear microsatellites) from 32 populations in 9 African countries. Two approaches for the selection of priority populations for conservation were used, differing in the way they optimize representation of intra-specific diversity of P. africana across a minimum number of populations. The first method (S1) was aimed at maximizing genetic diversity of the conservation units and their distinctiveness with regard to climatic conditions, the second method (S2) at optimizing representativeness of the genetic diversity found throughout the species’ range. Populations in East African countries (especially Kenya and Tanzania) were found to be of great conservation value, as suggested by previous findings. These populations are complemented by those in Madagascar and Cameroon. The combination of the two methods for prioritization led to the identification of a set of 6 priority populations. The potential distribution of P. africana was then modeled based on a dataset of 1,500 georeferenced observations. This enabled an assessment of whether the priority populations identified are exposed to threats from agricultural expansion and climate change, and whether they are located within the boundaries of protected areas. The range of the species has been affected by past climate change and the modeled distribution of P. africana indicates that the species is likely to be negatively affected in future, with an expected decrease in distribution by 2050. Based on these insights, further research at the regional and national scale is recommended, in order to strengthen P. africana conservation efforts.
Very low polymorphism in the germplasm typically used by breeding programs poses a significant bottleneck with regards to molecular breeding and the exploitation of breeding materials for quantitative trait analyses. California rice cultivars, derived from a very small base of temperate japonica germplasm and having a relatively brief breeding history, are a good example. In this study, we employed a reduced representation sequencing approach called Restriction Enzyme Site Comparative Analysis (RESCAN) to simultaneously identify and genotype single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in forty-five rice cultivars representing the majority of the 100 year-old breeding history in California. Over 20,000 putative SNPs were detected relative to the Nipponbare reference genome which enabled the identification and analysis of inheritance of pedigree haplotypes. Haplotype blocks distinguishing modern California cultivars from each other and from the ancestral short grain temperate japonica cultivars were easily identified. Reduced representation sequencing methods such as RESCAN are a valuable alternative to SNP chip genotyping and low coverage whole genome sequencing.
Maize (Zea mays L.) lipoxygenases (ZmLOXs) are well recognized as important players in plant defense against pathogens, especially in cross kingdom lipid communication with pathogenic fungi. This study is among the first to investigate genetic diversity at important gene paralogs ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5. Sequencing of these genes in 400 diverse maize lines showed little genetic diversity and low linkage disequilibrium in the two genes. Importantly, we identified one inbred line in which ZmLOX5 has a disrupted open reading frame, a line missing ZmLOX5, and five lines with a duplication of ZmLOX5. Tajima's D test suggests that both ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 have been under neutral selection. Further investigation of haplotype data revealed that within the ZmLOX family members only ZmLOX12, a monocot specific ZmLOX, showed strong linkage disequilibrium that extends further than expected in maize. Linkage disequilibrium patterns at these loci of interest are crucial for future candidate gene association mapping studies. ZmLOX4 and ZmLOX5 mutations and copy number variants are under further investigation for crop improvement.
The sensory quality and the contents of quality-determining chemical compounds in unfermented and fermented cocoa from 100 cacao trees (individual genotypes) representing groups of nine genotype spectra (GG), grown at smallholder plantings in the municipality of Waslala, Nicaragua, were evaluated for two successive harvest periods. Cocoa samples were fermented using a technique mimicking recommended on-farm practices. The sensory cocoa quality was assessed by experienced tasters, and seven major chemical taste compounds were quantified by near infrared spectrometry (NIRS). The association of the nine, partially admixed, genotype spectra with the analytical and sensory quality parameters was tested. The individual parameters were analyzed as a function of the factors GG and harvest (including the date of fermentation), individual trees within a single GG were used as replications. In fermented cocoa, significant GG-specific differences were observed for methylxanthines, theobromine-to-caffeine (T/C) ratio, total fat, procyanidin B5 and epicatechin, as well as the sensory attributes global score, astringency, and dry fruit aroma, but differences related to harvest were also apparent. The potential cocoa yield was also highly determined by the individual GG, although there was significant tree-to-tree variation within every single GG. Non-fermented samples showed large harvest-to-harvest variation of their chemical composition, while differences between GG were insignificant. These results suggest that selection by the genetic background, represented here by groups of partially admixed genotype spectra, would be a useful strategy toward enhancing quality and yield of cocoa in Nicaragua. Selection by the GG within the local, genetically segregating populations of seed-propagated cacao, followed by clonal propagation of best-performing individuals of the selected GG could be a viable alternative to traditional propagation of cacao by seed from open pollination. Fast and gentle air-drying of the fermented beans and their permanent dry storage were an efficient and comparatively easy precondition for high cocoa quality.
Clonal species normally have low seed production, low recruitment rates and long lifespans, and it is expected that the rates of long-distance dispersal (LDD) of seeds will be low as well. Banksia candolleana is a clonal shrub in Mediterranean-type, fire-prone sclerophyll shrublands of southwestern Australia, whose reproductive biology and population dynamics contrast with those of co-occurring nonclonal congeneric species, all of which are restricted to a mosaic of sand dunes set within a matrix of inhospitable swales. Using microsatellite markers, we genotyped 499 plants in all 15 populations of B. candolleana within a 12-km2 area, assessed population genetic differentiation, and quantified the effective rate of interpopulation seed dispersal through genetic assignment of individuals to populations. We measured life history, reproductive and demographic attributes, and compared these with two co-occurring Banksia species, a non-clonal resprouter and a nonsprouter. B. candolleana has much higher levels of population genetic differentiation, and one-third the rate of interpopulation seed migration, as the other two species (2.2% vs 5.5−6.8% of genotyped plants inferred to be immigrants), though distances reached by LDD are comparable (0.3−2.3 km). The low rate of interpopulation dispersal was supported by an analysis of the age structure of three populations that suggests a mean interdune migration rate of <800 m in 200 years, and 60% of suitable dunes remain uninhabited. Thus, B. candolleana has poor properties for promoting long-distance dispersal. It is unclear if these are idiosyncratic to this species or whether such properties are to be expected of clonal species in general where LDD is less critical for species survival.
We attempted to confirm that seed banks can be viewed as an important genetic reservoir by testing the hypothesis that standing (aboveground) plants represent a nonrandom sample of the seed bank. We sampled multilocus allozyme genotypes from three species with different life history strategies: Amaranthus retroflexus, Carduus acanthoides, Pastinaca sativa. In four populations of each species we analysed the extent to which allele and genotype frequencies vary in consecutive life history stages including the summer seed bank, which has been overlooked up to now. We compared the winter seed bank (i.e., seeds collected before the spring germination peak), seedlings, rosettes, the summer seed bank (i.e., seeds collected after the spring germination peak) and fruiting plants. We found that: (1) All three species partitioned most of their genetic diversity within life history stages and less among stages within populations and among populations. (2) All genetic diversity parameters, except for allele frequencies, were similar among all life history stages across all populations in different species. (3) There were differences in allele frequencies among life history stages at all localities in Amaranthus retroflexus and at three localities in both Carduus acanthoides and Pastinaca sativa. (4) Allele frequencies did not differ between the winter and summer seed bank in most Carduus acanthoides and Pastinaca sativa populations, but there was a marked difference in Amaranthus retroflexus. In conclusion, we have shown that the summer seed bank is not genetically depleted by spring germination and that a majority of genetic diversity remains in the soil through summer. We suggest that seed banks in the species investigated play an important role by maintaining genetic diversity sufficient for recovery rather than by accumulating new genetic diversity at each locality.
We combine information about the evolutionary history and distributional patterns of the genus Saintpaulia H. Wendl. (Gesneriaceae; ‘African violets’) to elucidate the factors and processes behind the accumulation of species in tropical montane areas of high biodiversity concentration. We find that high levels of biodiversity in the Eastern Arc Mountains are the result of pre-Quaternary speciation processes and environmental stability. Our results support the hypothesis that climatically stable mountaintops may have acted as climatic refugia for lowland lineages during the Pleistocene by preventing extinctions. In addition, we found evidence for the existence of lowland micro-refugia during the Pleistocene, which may explain the high species diversity of East African coastal forests. We discuss the conservation implications of the results in the context of future climate change.
Analysing pollen movement is a key to understanding the reproductive system of plant species and how it is influenced by the spatial distribution of potential mating partners in fragmented populations. Here we infer parameters related to levels of pollen movement and diversity of the effective pollen cloud for the wind-pollinated shrub Pistacia lentiscus across a highly disturbed landscape using microsatellite loci. Paternity analysis and the indirect KinDist and Mixed Effect Mating models were used to assess mating patterns, the pollen dispersal kernel, the effective number of males (Nep) and their relative individual fertility, as well as the existence of fine-scale spatial genetic structure in adult plants. All methods showed extensive pollen movement, with high rates of pollen flow from outside the study site (up to 73–93%), fat-tailed dispersal kernels and large average pollination distances (δ = 229–412 m). However, they also agreed in detecting very few pollen donors (Nep = 4.3–10.2) and a large variance in their reproductive success: 70% of males did not sire any offspring among the studied female plants and 5.5% of males were responsible for 50% of pollinations. Although we did not find reduced levels of genetic diversity, the adult population showed high levels of biparental inbreeding (14%) and strong spatial genetic structure (Sp = 0.012), probably due to restricted seed dispersal and scarce safe sites for recruitment. Overall, limited seed dispersal and the scarcity of successful pollen donors can be contributing to generate local pedigrees and to increase inbreeding, the prelude of genetic impoverishment.
Chrysanthemum L. (Asteraceae-Anthemideae) is a genus with rapid speciation. It comprises about 40 species, most of which are distributed in East Asia. Many of these are narrowly distributed and habitat-specific. Considerable variations in morphology and ploidy are found in this genus. Some species have been the subjects of many studies, but the relationships between Chrysanthemum and its allies and the phylogeny of this genus remain poorly understood. In the present study, 32 species/varieties from Chrysanthemum and 11 from the allied genera were analyzed using DNA sequences of the single-copy nuclear CDS gene and seven cpDNA loci (psbA-trnH, trnC-ycf6, ycf6-psbM, trnY-rpoB, rpS4-trnT, trnL-F, and rpL16). The cpDNA and nuclear CDS gene trees both suggest that 1) Chrysanthemum is not a monophyletic taxon, and the affinity between Chrysanthemum and Ajania is so close that these two genera should be incorporated taxonomically; 2) Phaeostigma is more closely related to the Chrysanthemum+Ajania than other generic allies. According to pollen morphology and to the present cpDNA and CDS data, Ajania purpurea is a member of Phaeostigma. Species differentiation in Chrysanthemum appears to be correlated with geographic and environmental conditions. The Chinese Chrysanthemum species can be divided into two groups, the C. zawadskii group and the C. indicum group. The former is distributed in northern China and the latter in southern China. Many polyploid species, such as C. argyrophyllum, may have originated from allopolyploidization involving divergent progenitors. Considering all the evidence from present and previous studies, we conclude that geographic and ecological factors as well as hybridization and polyploidy play important roles in the divergence and speciation of the genus Chrysanthemum.
Liriodendron chinense (L. chinense) is an endangered basal angiosperm plant in China because of its low reproductive efficiency. Recently, miRNAs have obtained great attention because they can play important roles. Through high throughput sequencing technique, large amount of miRNAs were identified from different plant species. But there were few studies about the miRNAs in the basal angiosperms especially in the sexual reproduction process.
Deep sequencing technology was applied to discover miRNAs in L. chinense flowers at different stages. After bioinformatic analysis, 496 putative conserved miRNAs representing 97 families and 2 novel miRNAs were found. Among them, one is previously regarded as gymnosperm specific. Their expressions were further validated by Real-time PCR for 13 selected miRNAs. Putative targeting genes were predicted and categorized with gene ontology (GO) analysis. About ten percents of the targets are involved in the reproduction process. Further expressional analysis showed that many of these miRNAs were highly related to the reproductive growth.
This is the first comprehensive identification of conserved and novel miRNAs in L. chinense. The data presented here might not only help to fill the gap of miRNA registered about basal angiosperm plants but also contribute to understanding the evolution of miRNAs. The differential expression of some of the miRNAs and the prediction of their target genes are also helpful in understanding the regulation of L. chinense sexual reproduction.
Internal transcribed spacer of nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA) is already one of the most popular phylogenetic and DNA barcoding markers. However, the existence of its multiple copies has complicated such usage and a detailed characterization of intra-genomic variations is critical to address such concerns.
In this study, we used sequence-tagged pyrosequencing and genome-wide analyses to characterize intra-genomic variations of internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) regions from 178 plant species. We discovered that mutation of ITS2 is frequent, with a mean of 35 variants per species. And on average, three of the most abundant variants make up 91% of all ITS2 copies. Moreover, we found different congeneric species share identical variants in 13 genera. Interestingly, different species across different genera also share identical variants. In particular, one minor variant of ITS2 in Eleutherococcus giraldii was found identical to the ITS2 major variant of Panax ginseng, both from Araliaceae family. In addition, DNA barcoding gap analysis showed that the intra-genomic distances were markedly smaller than those of the intra-specific or inter-specific variants. When each of 5543 variants were examined for its species discrimination efficiency, a 97% success rate was obtained at the species level.
Identification of identical ITS2 variants across intra-generic or inter-generic species revealed complex species evolutionary history, possibly, horizontal gene transfer and ancestral hybridization. Although intra-genomic multiple variants are frequently found within each genome, the usage of the major variants alone is sufficient for phylogeny construction and species determination in most cases. Furthermore, the inclusion of minor variants further improves the resolution of species identification.
Determination of spatial genetic structure (SGS) in natural populations is important for both theoretical aspects of evolutionary genetics and their application in species conservation and ecological restoration. In this study, we examined genetic diversity within and among the natural populations of a cosmopolitan grass Phragmites australis (common reed) in the Yellow River Delta (YRD), China, where a mosaic of habitat patches varying in soil salinity was detected. We demonstrated that, despite their close geographic proximity, the common reed populations in the YRD significantly diverged at six microsatellite loci, exhibiting a strong association of genetic variation with habitat heterogeneity. Genetic distances among populations were best explained as a function of environmental difference, rather than geographical distance. Although the level of genetic divergence among populations was relatively low (F’ST = 0.073), weak but significant genetic differentiation, as well as the concordance between ecological and genetic landscapes, suggests spatial structuring of genotypes in relation to patchy habitats. These findings not only provided insights into the population dynamics of common reed in changing environments, but also demonstrated the feasibility of using habitat patches in a mosaic landscape as test systems to identify appropriate genetic sources for ecological restoration.
Both leaf attributes and stomatal traits are linked to water economy in land plants. However, it is unclear whether these two components are associated evolutionarily.
In characterizing the possible effect of phylogeny on leaf attributes and stomatal traits, we hypothesized that a correlated evolution exists between the two. Using a phylogenetic comparative method, we analyzed 14 leaf attributes and stomatal traits for 17 species in Paphiopedilum. Stomatal length (SL), stomatal area (SA), upper cuticular thickness (UCT), and total cuticular thickness (TCT) showed strong phylogenetic conservatism whereas stomatal density (SD) and stomatal index (SI) were significantly convergent. Leaf vein density was correlated with SL and SD whether or not phylogeny was considered. The lower epidermal thickness (LET) was correlated positively with SL, SA, and stomatal width but negatively with SD when phylogeny was not considered. When this phylogenetic influence was factored in, only the significant correlation between SL and LET remained.
Our results support the hypothesis for correlated evolution between stomatal traits and vein density in Paphiopedilum. However, they do not provide evidence for an evolutionary association between stomata and leaf thickness. These findings lend insight into the evolution of traits related to water economy for orchids under natural selection.
Generally, effect of fragmentation per se on biodiversity has not been separated from the effect of habitat loss. In this paper, using nDNA and cpDNA SSRs, we studied genetic diversity of Castanopsis sclerophylla (Lindl. & Paxton) Schotty populations and decoupled the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation per se. We selected seven nuclear and six cpDNA microsatellite loci and genotyped 460 individuals from mainland and island populations, which were located in the impoundment created in 1959. Number of alleles per locus of populations in larger habitats was significantly higher than that in smaller habitats. There was a significant relationship between the number of alleles per locus and habitat size. Based on this relationship, the predicted genetic diversity of an imaginary population of size equaling the total area of the islands was lower than that of the global population on the islands. Re-sampling demonstrated that low genetic diversity of populations in small habitats was caused by unevenness in sample size. Fisher's α index was similar among habitat types. These results indicate that the decreased nuclear and chloroplast genetic diversity of populations in smaller habitats was mainly caused by habitat loss. For nuclear and chloroplast microsatellite loci, values of FST were 0.066 and 0.893, respectively, and the calculated pollen/seed dispersal ratio was 162.2. When separated into pre-and post-fragmentation cohorts, pollen/seed ratios were 121.2 and 189.5, respectively. Our results suggest that habitat loss explains the early decrease in genetic diversity, while fragmentation per se may play a major role in inbreeding and differentiation among fragmented populations and later loss of genetic diversity.
Intercontinental disjunctions between tropical regions, which harbor two-thirds of the flowering plants, have drawn great interest from biologists and biogeographers. Most previous studies on these distribution patterns focused on woody plants, and paid little attention to herbs. The Orchidaceae is one of the largest families of angiosperms, with a herbaceous habit and a high species diversity in the Tropics. Here we investigate the evolutionary and biogeographical history of the slipper orchids, which represents a monophyletic subfamily (Cypripedioideae) of the orchid family and comprises five genera that are disjunctly distributed in tropical to temperate regions. A relatively well-resolved and highly supported phylogeny of slipper orchids was reconstructed based on sequence analyses of six maternally inherited chloroplast and two low-copy nuclear genes (LFY and ACO). We found that the genus Cypripedium with a wide distribution in the northern temperate and subtropical zones diverged first, followed by Selenipedium endemic to South America, and finally conduplicate-leaved genera in the Tropics. Mexipedium and Phragmipedium from the neotropics are most closely related, and form a clade sister to Paphiopedilum from tropical Asia. According to molecular clock estimates, the genus Selenipedium originated in Palaeocene, while the most recent common ancestor of conduplicate-leaved slipper orchids could be dated back to the Eocene. Ancestral area reconstruction indicates that vicariance is responsible for the disjunct distribution of conduplicate slipper orchids in palaeotropical and neotropical regions. Our study sheds some light on mechanisms underlying generic and species diversification in the orchid family and tropical disjunctions of herbaceous plant groups. In addition, we suggest that the biogeographical study should sample both regional endemics and their widespread relatives.