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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 May;27(2):185-96.

Using AFLP to resolve phylogenetic relationships in a morphologically diversified plant species complex when nuclear and chloroplast sequences fail to reveal variability.

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Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS-UMR 5553, Université J. Fourier, BP 53-38041 09, Grenoble cedex, France.

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  • Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Jan;30(1):258.


Inferring phylogenetic relationships among closely related plant species is often difficult due to the lack of molecular markers exhibiting enough nucleotide variability at this taxonomic level. Moreover, gene tree does not necessary represent the true species tree because of random sorting of polymorphic alleles in different lineages. A solution to these problems is to use many amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) distributed throughout the whole genome, to infer cladistic and phenetic among-species relationships. Phylogenetic relationships among interfertile species of Trollius L. (Ranunculaceae) were investigated using nuclear DNA (ITS1+5.8S rRNA+ITS2) and chloroplast DNA (trnL intron and trnL-trnF intergene spacer) sequences, and AFLP markers. ITS sequences were not informative at the intrageneric level, but confirmed the sister relationship between Trollius and Adonis genera, and provided new information on the phylogenetic relationships among five Ranunculaceae genera. Chloroplast DNA was more informative among Trollius species, but not consistent with the sections previously described. AFLP proved to be a powerful tool to resolve the complex genetic relationships between the morphological entities constituting the genus Trollius. Although as much as 76.1% of the total AFLP variability was found within a priori defined morphological groups, the remaining 23.9% variability differentiating groups was sufficient to generate congruent and robust cladistic and phenetic trees. Several morphological traits, independent from those used to define groups, were mapped onto the molecular phylogeny, and their evolution discussed in relation to the absence/presence of pollinator-seed parasite Chiastocheta flies.

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