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Ann Bot. 2005 Jan;95(1):91-8.

Intraspecific variation in genome size in angiosperms: identifying its existence.

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  • 1Institute of Botany and Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, A 1030 Vienna, Austria. johann.greilhuber@univie.ac.at



The 6 years since the last Angiosperm Genome Size Discussion Meeting in 1997 have experienced the decline of the then widely held idea of the 'plastic' genome. Several published cases of intra-specific variation in cultivated plants have been questioned on re-investigation with an improved technical approach. At the same time, technical problems caused by staining inhibitors present in the plant material have been recognized. In the accumulation of genome size data more critical methods and rules for best practice are urgently needed. INFRA-SPECIFIC VARIATION RE-VISITED: This review is about (a) the basic requirement for repeatability of results and the need for self-criticism on the part of the investigator and (b) the critical points in the technical procedure, particularly the quantitative Feulgen reaction. Case studies are presented on Dasypyrum villosum (refuting a previously reported 'plastic genome' phenomenon), on Glycine max (refuting previously claimed intraspecific variation) and on Arachis hypogaea and A. duranensis, in which reported C-values are too high by roughly two-fold. In A. hypogaea the reported intraspecific genome size variation could not be confirmed. Furthermore, a claimed negative correlation between altitude and genome size in A. duranensis was shown to be based on an arbitrary omission of data points that did not fit the correlation (although a correlation was found).


The finding of previously published questionable studies was the incentive for a re-consideration of the quantitative Feulgen procedure with regard to best practice in genome size studies. Clarification here of the critical steps of the method should help to improve the data in the literature. It must be stressed that the most important requirement is the need for a self-critical attitude of researchers to their data.

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