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Am J Bot. 2007 Mar;94(3):275-88. doi: 10.3732/ajb.94.3.275.

Comparison of whole chloroplast genome sequences to choose noncoding regions for phylogenetic studies in angiosperms: the tortoise and the hare III.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, 615 McCallie Avenue, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403 USA;


Although the chloroplast genome contains many noncoding regions, relatively few have been exploited for interspecific phylogenetic and intraspecific phylogeographic studies. In our recent evaluation of the phylogenetic utility of 21 noncoding chloroplast regions, we found the most widely used noncoding regions are among the least variable, but the more variable regions have rarely been employed. That study led us to conclude that there may be unexplored regions of the chloroplast genome that have even higher relative levels of variability. To explore the potential variability of previously unexplored regions, we compared three pairs of single-copy chloroplast genome sequences in three disparate angiosperm lineages: Atropa vs. Nicotiana (asterids); Lotus vs. Medicago (rosids); and Saccharum vs. Oryza (monocots). These three separate sequence alignments highlighted 13 mutational hotspots that may be more variable than the best regions of our former study. These 13 regions were then selected for a more detailed analysis. Here we show that nine of these newly explored regions (rpl32-trnL((UAG)), trnQ((UUG))-5'rps16, 3'trnV((UAC))-ndhC, ndhF-rpl32, psbD-trnT((GGU)), psbJ-petA, 3'rps16-5'trnK((UUU)), atpI-atpH, and petL-psbE) offer levels of variation better than the best regions identified in our earlier study and are therefore likely to be the best choices for molecular studies at low taxonomic levels.

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