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Mol Biol Evol. 2004 May;21(5):860-9. Epub 2004 Mar 10.

The considerable genome size variation of Hordeum species (poaceae) is linked to phylogeny, life form, ecology, and speciation rates.

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Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben, Germany.


Genome size variation in plants is thought to be correlated with cytological, physiological, or ecological characters. However, conclusions drawn in several studies were often contradictory. To analyze nuclear genome size evolution in a phylogenetic framework, DNA contents of 134 accessions, representing all but one species of the barley genus Hordeum L., were measured by flow cytometry. The 2C DNA contents were in a range from 6.85 to 10.67 pg in diploids (2n = 14) and reached up to 29.85 pg in hexaploid species (2n = 42). The smallest genomes were found in taxa from the New World, which became secondarily annual, whereas the largest diploid genomes occur in Eurasian annuals. Genome sizes of polyploid taxa equaled mostly the added sizes of their proposed progenitors or were slightly (1% to 5%) smaller. The analysis of ancestral genome sizes on the base of the phylogeny of the genus revealed lineages with decreasing and with increasing genome sizes. Correlations of intraspecific genome size variation with the length of vegetation period were found in H. marinum populations from Western Europe but were not significant within two species from South America. On a higher taxonomical level (i.e., for species groups or the entire genus), environmental correlations were absent. This could mostly be attributed to the superimposition of life-form changes and phylogenetic constraints, which conceal ecogeographical correlations.

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