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Ann Bot. 2009 Jun;103(8):1207-17. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcp058. Epub 2009 Mar 22.

Phenotypic, genetic and genomic consequences of natural and synthetic polyploidization of Nicotiana attenuata and Nicotiana obtusifolia.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Department of Molecular Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07745 Jena, Germany.



Polyploidy results in genetic turmoil, much of which is associated with new phenotypes that result in speciation. Five independent lines of synthetic allotetraploid N. x obtusiata (N x o) were created from crosses between the diploid N. attenuata (Na) (male) and N. obtusifolia (No) (female) and the autotetraploids of Na (NaT) and No (NoT) were synthesized. Their genetic, genomic and phenotypic changes were then compared with those of the parental diploid species (Na and No) as well as to the natural allotetraploids, N. quadrivalvis (Nq) and N. clevelandii (Nc), which formed 1 million years ago from crosses between ancient Na and No.


DNA fingerprinting profiles (by UP-PCR) revealed that the five N x o lines shared similar but not identical profiles. Both synthetic and natural polyploidy showed a dosage effect on genome size (as measured in seeds); however, only Nq was associated with a genome upsizing. Phenotypic analysis revealed that at the cellular level, N x o lines had phenotypes intermediate of the parental phenotypes. Both allo- and autotetraploidization had a dosage effect on seed and dry biomass (except for NaT), but not on stalk height at first flower. Nc showed paternal (Na) cellular phenotypes but inherited maternal (No) biomass and seed mass, whereas Nq showed maternal (No) cellular phenotypes but inherited paternal (Na) biomass and seed mass patterns. Principal component analysis grouped Nq with N x o lines, due to similar seed mass, stalk height and genome size. These traits separated Nc, No and Na from Nq and N x o lines, whereas biomass distinguished Na from N x o and Nq lines, and NaT clustered closer to Nq and N x o lines than to Na.


Both allo- and autotetraploidy induce considerable morphological, genetic and genomic changes, many of which are retained by at least one of the natural polyploids. It is proposed that both natural and synthetic polyploids are well suited for studying the evolution of adaptive responses.

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