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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Nov;29(2):216-34.

ITS secondary structure derived from comparative analysis: implications for sequence alignment and phylogeny of the Asteraceae.

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Section of Integrative Biology and Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


An RNA secondary structure model is presented for the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacers (ITS) based on comparative analysis of 340 sequences from the angiosperm family Asteraceae. The model based on covariation analysis agrees with structural features proposed in previous studies using mainly thermodynamic criteria and provides evidence for additional structural motifs within ITS1 and ITS2. The minimum structure model suggests that at least 20% of ITS1 and 38% of ITS2 nucleotide positions are involved in base pairing to form helices. The sequence alignment enabled by conserved structural features provides a framework for broadscale molecular evolutionary studies and the first family-level phylogeny of the Asteraceae based on nuclear DNA data. The phylogeny based on ITS sequence data is very well resolved and shows considerable congruence with relationships among major lineages of the family suggested by chloroplast DNA studies, including a monophyletic subfamily Asteroideae and a paraphyletic subfamily Cichorioideae. Combined analyses of ndhF and ITS sequences provide additional resolution and support for relationships in the family.

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