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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 14;101(50):17444-9. Epub 2004 Dec 6.

Heterogeneous evolutionary processes affect R gene diversity in natural populations of Solanum pimpinellifolium.

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Biology Department, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Resistance (R) genes of plants are responsible for pathogen recognition and encode proteins that trigger a cascade of responses when a pathogen invades a plant. R genes are assumed to be under strong selection, but there is limited knowledge of the processes affecting R gene diversity in the wild. In this study, DNA sequence variation of Cf-2 homologs was surveyed in populations of Solanum pimpinellifolium, a wild relative of the cultivated tomato. The Cf-2 locus is involved in resistance to strains of the fungus Cladosporium fulvum. At least 26 different Cf-2 homologs were detected in natural populations of S. pimpinellifolium. These homologs differ by single base pair substitutions as well as indels in regions coding for leucine-rich repeats. Molecular population genetic analyses suggest that natural selection has acted heterogeneously on Cf-2 homologs, with selection against amino acid substitutions occurring in the 5' portion of the genes, and possible restricted positive selection in the 3' end. Balancing selection may have maintained haplotypes at the 5' end of the genes. Limited sequence exchange between genes has also contributed to sequence variation. S. pimpinellifolium individuals differ in the number of Cf-2 homologs they contain, obscuring the relationships of orthology and paralogy. This survey of Cf-2 variation in S. pimpinellifolium illustrates the wealth of R gene diversity that exists in wild plant populations, as well as the complexity of interacting genetic and evolutionary processes that generate such diversity.

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