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Am J Bot. 1999 Mar;86(3):372-86.

Phylogenetic relationships of land plants using mitochondrial small-subunit rDNA sequences.

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Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois 62901-6509.


Phylogenetic relationships among embryophytes (tracheophytes, mosses, liverworts, and hornworts) were examined using 21 newly generated mitochondrial small-subunit (19S) rDNA sequences. The "core" 19S rDNA contained more phylogenetically informative sites and lower homoplasy than either nuclear 18S or plastid 16S rDNA. Results of phylogenetic analyses using parsimony (MP) and likelihood (ML) were generally congruent. Using MP, two trees were obtained that resolved either liverworts or hornworts as the basal land plant clade. The optimal ML tree showed hornworts as basal. That topology was not statistically different from the two MP trees, thus both appear to be equally viable evolutionary hypotheses. High bootstrap support was obtained for the majority of higher level embryophyte clades named in a recent morphologically based classification, e.g., Tracheophyta, Euphyllophytina, Lycophytina, and Spermatophytata. Strong support was also obtained for the following monophyletic groups: hornworts, liverworts, mosses, lycopsids, leptosporangiate and eusporangiate ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms. This molecular analysis supported a sister relationship between Equisetum and leptosporangiate ferns and a monophyletic gymnosperms sister to angiosperms. The topologies of deeper clades were affected by taxon inclusion (particularly hornworts) as demonstrated by jackknife analyses. This study represents the first use of mitochondrial 19S rDNA for phylogenetic purposes and it appears well-suited for examining intermediate to deep evolutionary relationships among embryophytes.

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