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Genetics. 2006 Dec;174(4):1983-94. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

Nonneutral evolution of organelle genes in Silene vulgaris.

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  • 1Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA.


Knowledge of mitochondrial gene evolution in angiosperms has taken a dramatic shift within the past decade, from universal slow rates of nucleotide change to a growing realization of high variation in rates among lineages. Additionally, evidence of paternal inheritance of plant mitochondria and recombination among mitochondrial genomes within heteroplasmic individuals has led to speculation about the potential for independent evolution of organellar genes. We report intraspecific mitochondrial and chloroplast sequence variation in a cosmopolitan sample of 42 Silene vulgaris individuals. There was remarkably high variation in two mitochondrial genes (atp1, atp9) and additional variation within a third gene (cob). Tests for patterns of nonneutral evolution were significant for atp1 and atp9, indicative of the maintenance of balanced polymorphisms. Two chloroplast genes (matK, ndhF) possessed less, but still high, variation and no divergence from neutral expectations. Phylogenetic patterns of organelle genes in both the chloroplast and mitochondria were incongruent, indicating the potential for independent evolutionary trajectories. Evidence indicated reassociation among cytoplasmic genomes and recombination between mitochondrial genes and within atp1, implying transient heteroplasmy in ancestral lineages. Although the mechanisms for long-term maintenance of mitochondrial polymorphism are currently unknown, frequency-dependent selection on linked cytoplasmic male sterility genes is a potential candidate.

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