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1.  Nutrient reserves may allow for genome size increase: evidence from comparison of geophytes and their sister non-geophytic relatives 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(6):1193-1200.
Background and Aims
The genome size of an organism is determined by its capacity to tolerate genome expansion, given the species' life strategy and the limits of a particular environment, and the ability for retrotransposon suppression and/or removal. In some giant-genomed bulb geophytes, this tolerance is explained by their ability to pre-divide cells in the dormant stages or by the selective advantage of larger cells in the rapid growth of their fleshy body. In this study, a test shows that the tendency for genome size expansion is a more universal feature of geophytes, and is a subject in need of more general consideration.
Differences in monoploid genome sizes were compared using standardized phylogenetically independent contrasts in 47 sister pairs of geophytic and non-geophytic taxa sampled across all the angiosperms. The genome sizes of 96 species were adopted from the literature and 53 species were newly measured using flow cytometry with propidium iodide staining.
Key Results
The geophytes showed increased genome sizes compared with their non-geophytic relatives, regardless of the storage organ type and regardless of whether or not vernal geophytes, polyploids or annuals were included in the analyses.
The universal tendency of geophytes to possess a higher genome size suggests the presence of a universal mechanism allowing for genome expansion. It is assumed that this is primarily due to the nutrient and energetic independence of geophytes perhaps allowing continuous synthesis of DNA, which is known to proceed in the extreme cases of vernal geophytes even in dormant stages. This independence may also be assumed as a reason for allowing large genomes in some parasitic plants, as well as the nutrient limitation of small genomes of carnivorous plants.
PMCID: PMC3783246  PMID: 23960044
Genome size evolution; Cx-value; life form; spring geophytes; ephemeroids; storage organ; energy reserves; flow cytometry
2.  Evolution of genome size in Carex (Cyperaceae) in relation to chromosome number and genomic base composition 
Annals of Botany  2012;111(1):79-94.
Background and Aims
The genus Carex exhibits karyological peculiarities related to holocentrism, specifically extremely broad and almost continual variation in chromosome number. However, the effect of these peculiarities on the evolution of the genome (genome size, base composition) remains unknown. While in monocentrics, determining the arithmetic relationship between the chromosome numbers of related species is usually sufficient for the detection of particular modes of karyotype evolution (i.e. polyploidy and dysploidy), in holocentrics where chromosomal fission and fusion occur such detection requires knowledge of the DNA content.
The genome size and GC content were estimated in 157 taxa using flow cytometry. The exact chromosome numbers were known for 96 measured samples and were taken from the available literature for other taxa. All relationships were tested in a phylogenetic framework using the ITS tree of 105 species.
Key Results
The 1C genome size varied between 0·24 and 1·64 pg in Carex secalina and C. cuspidata, respectively. The genomic GC content varied from 34·8 % to 40·6 % from C. secalina to C. firma. Both genomic parameters were positively correlated. Seven polyploid and two potentially polyploid taxa were detected in the core Carex clade. A strong negative correlation between genome size and chromosome number was documented in non-polyploid taxa. Non-polyploid taxa of the core Carex clade exhibited a higher rate of genome-size evolution compared with the Vignea clade. Three dioecious taxa exhibited larger genomes, larger chromosomes, and a higher GC content than their hermaphrodite relatives.
Genomes of Carex are relatively small and very GC-poor compared with other angiosperms. We conclude that the evolution of genome and karyotype in Carex is promoted by frequent chromosomal fissions/fusions, rare polyploidy and common repetitive DNA proliferation/removal.
PMCID: PMC3523652  PMID: 23175591
Agmatoploidy; AT/GC ratio; chromosomal fusion and fission; chromosome numbers; DNA content; flow cytometry; GC content; karyotype; phylogeny; polyploidy; symploidy
3.  Genome size and DNA base composition of geophytes: the mirror of phenology and ecology? 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):65-75.
Background and Aims
Genome size is known to affect various plant traits such as stomatal size, seed mass, and flower or shoot phenology. However, these associations are not well understood for species with very large genomes, which are laregly represented by geophytic plants. No detailed associations are known between DNA base composition and genome size or species ecology.
Genome sizes and GC contents were measured in 219 geophytes together with tentative morpho-anatomical and ecological traits.
Key Results
Increased genome size was associated with earliness of flowering and tendency to grow in humid conditions, and there was a positive correlation between an increase in stomatal size in species with extremely large genomes. Seed mass of geophytes was closely related to their ecology, but not to genomic parameters. Genomic DNA GC content showed a unimodal relationship with genome size but no relationship with species ecology.
Evolution of genome size in geophytes is closely related to their ecology and phenology and is also associated with remarkable changes in DNA base composition. Although geophytism together with producing larger cells appears to be an advantageous strategy for fast development of an organism in seasonal habitats, the drought sensitivity of large stomata may restrict the occurrence of geophytes with very large genomes to regions not subject to water stress.
PMCID: PMC3241587  PMID: 22021815
Life-form; geophytes; genome size evolution; GC content; phenology; stomatal length; seed mass; ecology
4.  Diverse retrotransposon families and an AT-rich satellite DNA revealed in giant genomes of Fritillaria lilies 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(2):255-268.
Background and Aims
The genus Fritillaria (Liliaceae) comprises species with extremely large genomes (1C = 30 000–127 000 Mb) and a bicontinental distribution. Most North American species (subgenus Liliorhiza) differ from Eurasian Fritillaria species by their distinct phylogenetic position and increased amounts of heterochromatin. This study examined the contribution of major repetitive elements to the genome obesity found in Fritillaria and identified repeats contributing to the heterochromatin arrays in Liliorhiza species.
Two Fritillaria species of similar genome size were selected for detailed analysis, one from each phylogeographical clade: F. affinis (1C = 45·6 pg, North America) and F. imperialis (1C = 43·0 pg, Eurasia). Fosmid libraries were constructed from their genomic DNAs and used for identification, sequence characterization, quantification and chromosome localization of clones containing highly repeated sequences.
Key Results and Conclusions
Repeats corresponding to 6·7 and 4·7 % of the F. affinis and F. imperialis genome, respectively, were identified. Chromoviruses and the Tat lineage of Ty3/gypsy group long terminal repeat retrotransposons were identified as the predominant components of the highly repeated fractions in the F. affinis and F. imperialis genomes, respectively. In addition, a heterogeneous, extremely AT-rich satellite repeat was isolated from F. affinis. The FriSAT1 repeat localized in heterochromatic bands makes up approx. 26 % of the F. affinis genome and substantial genomic fractions in several other Liliorhiza species. However, no evidence of a relationship between heterochromatin content and genome size variation was observed. Also, this study was unable to reveal any predominant repeats which tracked the increasing/decreasing trends of genome size evolution in Fritillaria. Instead, the giant Fritillaria genomes seem to be composed of many diversified families of transposable elements. We hypothesize that the genome obesity may be partly determined by the failure of removal mechanisms to counterbalance effectively the retrotransposon amplification.
PMCID: PMC3025733  PMID: 21156758
Fritillaria; Liliaceae; repetitive DNA; transposable elements; retrotransposon; heterochromatin; satellite repeats; chromosomes; genome size variation
5.  Intrapopulation Genome Size Dynamics in Festuca pallens 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(4):599-607.
Background and Aims
It is well known that genome size differs among species. However, information on the variation and dynamics of genome size in wild populations and on the early phase of genome size divergence between taxa is currently lacking. Genome size dynamics, heritability and phenotype effects are analysed here in a wild population of Festuca pallens (Poaceae).
Genome size was measured using flow cytometry with DAPI dye in 562 seedlings from 17 maternal plants varying in genome size. The repeatability of genome size measurements was verified at different seasons through the use of different standards and with propidium iodide dye; the range of variation observed was tested via analysis of double-peaks. Additionally, chromosome counts were made in selected seedlings.
Key Results and Conclusions
Analysis of double-peaks showed that genome size varied up to 1·188-fold within all 562 seedlings, 1·119-fold within the progeny of a single maternal plant and 1·117-fold in seedlings from grains of a single inflorescence. Generally, genome sizes of seedlings and their mothers were highly correlated. However, in maternal plants with both larger and smaller genomes, genome sizes of seedlings were shifted towards the population median. This was probably due to the frequency of available paternal genomes (pollen grains) in the population. There was a stabilizing selection on genome size during the development of seedlings into adults, which may be important for stabilizing genome size within species. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between genome size and the development rate of seedlings. A larger genome may therefore provide a competitive advantage, perhaps explaining the higher proportion of plants with larger genomes in the population studied. The reason for the observed variation may be the recent induction of genome size variation, e.g. by activity of retrotransposons, which may be preserved in the long term by the segregation of homeologous chromosomes of different sizes during gametogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2701780  PMID: 18684733
Nuclear DNA content; intraspecific variation; genome size evolution; heritability; stabilizing selection; grasses; flow cytometry
6.  Genome Size and GC Content Evolution of Festuca: Ancestral Expansion and Subsequent Reduction 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(3):421-433.
Background and Aims
Plant evolution is well known to be frequently associated with remarkable changes in genome size and composition; however, the knowledge of long-term evolutionary dynamics of these processes still remains very limited. Here a study is made of the fine dynamics of quantitative genome evolution in Festuca (fescue), the largest genus in Poaceae (grasses).
Using flow cytometry (PI, DAPI), measurements were made of DNA content (2C-value), monoploid genome size (Cx-value), average chromosome size (C/n-value) and cytosine + guanine (GC) content of 101 Festuca taxa and 14 of their close relatives. The results were compared with the existing phylogeny based on ITS and trnL-F sequences.
Key Results
The divergence of the fescue lineage from related Poeae was predated by about a 2-fold monoploid genome and chromosome size enlargement, and apparent GC content enrichment. The backward reduction of these parameters, running parallel in both main evolutionary lineages of fine-leaved and broad-leaved fescues, appears to diverge among the existing species groups. The most dramatic reductions are associated with the most recently and rapidly evolving groups which, in combination with recent intraspecific genome size variability, indicate that the reduction process is probably ongoing and evolutionarily young. This dynamics may be a consequence of GC-rich retrotransposon proliferation and removal. Polyploids derived from parents with a large genome size and high GC content (mostly allopolyploids) had smaller Cx- and C/n-values and only slightly deviated from parental GC content, whereas polyploids derived from parents with small genome and low GC content (mostly autopolyploids) generally had a markedly increased GC content and slightly higher Cx- and C/n-values.
The present study indicates the high potential of general quantitative characters of the genome for understanding the long-term processes of genome evolution, testing evolutionary hypotheses and their usefulness for large-scale genomic projects. Taken together, the results suggest that there is an evolutionary advantage for small genomes in Festuca.
PMCID: PMC2701825  PMID: 18158307
Festuca; fescue; grasses; genome size evolution; chromosome size; base composition; GC content; polyploidy; phylogeny; retrotransposon dynamics; flow cytometry
7.  Random Distribution Pattern and Non-adaptivity of Genome Size in a Highly Variable Population of Festuca pallens 
Annals of Botany  2007;100(1):141-150.
Background and Aims
The spatial and statistical distribution of genome sizes and the adaptivity of genome size to some types of habitat, vegetation or microclimatic conditions were investigated in a tetraploid population of Festuca pallens. The population was previously documented to vary highly in genome size and is assumed as a model for the study of the initial stages of genome size differentiation.
Using DAPI flow cytometry, samples were measured repeatedly with diploid Festuca pallens as the internal standard. Altogether 172 plants from 57 plots (2·25 m2), distributed in contrasting habitats over the whole locality in South Moravia, Czech Republic, were sampled. The differences in DNA content were confirmed by the double peaks of simultaneously measured samples.
Key Results
At maximum, a 1·115-fold difference in genome size was observed. The statistical distribution of genome sizes was found to be continuous and best fits the extreme (Gumbel) distribution with rare occurrences of extremely large genomes (positive-skewed), as it is similar for the log-normal distribution of the whole Angiosperms. Even plants from the same plot frequently varied considerably in genome size and the spatial distribution of genome sizes was generally random and unautocorrelated (P > 0·05). The observed spatial pattern and the overall lack of correlations of genome size with recognized vegetation types or microclimatic conditions indicate the absence of ecological adaptivity of genome size in the studied population.
These experimental data on intraspecific genome size variability in Festuca pallens argue for the absence of natural selection and the selective non-significance of genome size in the initial stages of genome size differentiation, and corroborate the current hypothetical model of genome size evolution in Angiosperms (Bennetzen et al., 2005, Annals of Botany 95: 127–132).
PMCID: PMC2735304  PMID: 17565968
Genome size, Poaceae; Gramineae; grasses; fescue; Festuca pallens; intrapopulation; intraspecific genome size variability; flow cytometry; transposons; evolution; ecological adaptivity; population structure; natural selection

Results 1-7 (7)