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Mycoheterotrophic Epirixanthes (Polygalaceae) has a typical angiosperm mitogenome but unorthodox plastid genomes

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  • Gitte Petersen, Stockholm University, Natural History Museum of Denmark
  • ,
  • H Darby, University of British Columbia
  • ,
  • VKY Lam, University of British Columbia
  • ,
  • H Æ Pedersen, Natural History Museum of Denmark
  • ,
  • Vincent SFT Merckx, Naturalis Biodiversity Centre
  • ,
  • Athanasios Zervas
  • Ole Seberg, Natural History Museum of Denmark
  • ,
  • Sean W Graham, University of British Columbia

Background and Aims Fully mycoheterotrophic plants derive carbon and other nutrients from root-associated fungi and have lost the ability to photosynthesize. While mycoheterotroph plastomes are often degraded compared with green plants, the effect of this unusual symbiosis on mitochondrial genome evolution is unknown. By providing the first complete organelle genome data from Polygalaceae, one of only three eudicot families that developed mycoheterotrophy, we explore how both organellar genomes evolved after loss of photosynthesis. Methods We sequenced and assembled four complete plastid genomes and a mitochondrial genome from species of Polygalaceae, focusing on non-photosynthetic Epirixanthes. We compared these genomes with those of other mycoheterotroph and parasitic plant lineages, and assessed whether organelle genes in Epirixanthes experienced relaxed or intensified selection compared with autotrophic relatives. Key Results Plastomes of two species of Epirixanthes have become substantially degraded compared with that of autotrophic Polygala. Although the lack of photosynthesis is presumably homologous in the genus, the surveyed Epirixanthes species have marked differences in terms of plastome size, structural rearrangements, gene content and substitution rates. Remarkably, both apparently replaced a canonical plastid inverted repeat with large directly repeated sequences. The mitogenome of E. elongata incorporated a considerable number of fossilized plastid genes, by intracellular transfer from an ancestor with a less degraded plastome. Both plastid and mitochondrial genes in E. elongata have increased substitution rates, but the plastid genes of E. pallida do not. Despite this, both species have similar selection patterns operating on plastid housekeeping genes. Conclusions Plastome evolution largely fits with patterns of gene degradation seen in other heterotrophic plants, but includes highly unusual directly duplicated regions. The causes of rate elevation in the sequenced Epirixanthes mitogenome and of rate differences in plastomes of related mycoheterotrophic species are not currently understood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of botany
Pages (from-to)791-807
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Epirixanthes, Gene loss, Mitochondrial genome, Mycoheterotrophy, Parasitic plants, Plastome evolution, Polygalaceae, Rearrangements, Selective pressure

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