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Genome. 2005 Jun;48(3):511-20.

Evolution of genome size across some cultivated Allium species.

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Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS UMR, Orsay France.


Allium L. (Alliaceae), a genus of major economic importance, exhibits a great diversity in various morphological characters and particularly in life form, with bulbs and rhizomes. Allium species show variation in several cytogenetic characters such as basic chromosome number, ploidy level, and genome size. The purpose of the present investigation was to study the evolution of nuclear DNA amount, GC content, and life form. A phylogenetic approach was used on a sample of 30 Allium species, including major vegetable crops and their wild allies, belonging to the 3 major subgenera Allium, Amerallium, and Rhizirideum and 14 sections. A phylogeny was constructed using internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences of 43 accessions representing 30 species, and the nuclear DNA amount and the GC content of 24 Allium species were investigated by flow cytometry. For the first time, the nuclear DNA content of Allium cyaneum and Allium vavilovii was measured, and the GC content of 16 species was measured. We addressed the following questions: (i) Is the variation in nuclear DNA amount and GC content linked to the evolutionary history of these edible Allium species and their wild relatives? (ii) How did life form (rhizome or bulb) evolve in edible Allium? Our results revealed significant interspecific variation in the nuclear DNA amount as well as in the GC content. No correlation was found between the GC content and the nuclear DNA amount. The reconstruction of nuclear DNA amount on the phylogeny showed a tendency towards a decrease in genome size within the genus. The reconstruction of life form history showed that rhizomes evolved in the subgenus Rhizirideum from an ancestral bulbous life form and were subsequently lost at least twice independently in this subgenus.

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