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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2006 May;39(2):478-90. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

Comparative analysis of a translocated copy of the trnK intron in carnivorous family Nepenthaceae.

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Department of Biology I, Section of Biodiversity Research, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany.


During phylogenetic analysis of the Nepenthaceae cpDNA trnK intron, it became apparent that a second non-functional copy of the locus was present in most of the investigated taxa. The translocation event was older than the radiation of all recent Nepenthaceae, and the translocated pseudogenized copy was conserved in nearly all members of the plant family. Using single chloroplast PCR and inverse PCR, we could exclude a plastom location for the second copy. Although translocation into the nucleus is possible, mitochondrial localization seems more likely based on these data. In total, the translocated sequence contained at least 3525 base pairs (bp) that were homologous to the Spinacia oleracea chloroplast genome. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of the non-functional copy revealed a high amount of homoplasies compared to topologies from the cpDNA trnK intron phylogenetic reconstruction. Therefore, this copy proved to be insufficient for phylogenetic reconstruction of the family. Since two different paralogs of the non-functional copy were found in one species, it is feasible that different paralogs were conserved in different groups and that paralogous sequences were included in the data matrix. These data demonstrate that phylogenetic analyses of pseudogenized copies of phylogenetically relevant loci should be performed with great caution. In addition, pseudogenized copies can exist in nearly every member of a plant family, and can be PCR-amplified at levels comparable to the specific copy. In this case, the inclusion of such copies can easily remain unnoticed, thus leading to faulty hypotheses.

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