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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2009 Dec;53(3):726-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.07.024. Epub 2009 Jul 29.

Flanking regions of monomorphic microsatellite loci provide a new source of data for plant species-level phylogenetics.

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Nationaal Herbarium Nederland, Wageningen Branch, Wageningen UR, Biosystematics Group, Generaal Foulkesweg 37, 6703 BL, The Netherlands.


Well-resolved phylogenetic trees are essential for us to understand evolutionary processes at the level of species. The degree of species-level resolution in the plant phylogenetic literature is poor, however, largely due to the dearth of sufficiently variable molecular markers. Unlike the common genic approach to marker development, we generated DNA sequences of monomorphic nuclear microsatellite flanking regions in a phylogenetic study of Annona species (Annonaceae). The resulting data showed no evidence of paralogy or allelic diversity that would confound attempts to reconstruct the species tree. Microsatellite flanking regions are short, making them practical to use, yet have astounding proportions of variable characters. They have 3.5- to 10-fold higher substitution rates compared to two commonly used chloroplast markers, have no rate heterogeneity among nucleotide positions, evolve in a clock-like fashion, and show no evidence of saturation. These advantages are offset by the short length of the flanking regions, resulting in similar numbers of parsimony informative characters to the chloroplast markers. The neutral evolution and high variability of flanking regions, together with the wide availability of monomorphic microsatellite loci in angiosperms, are useful qualities for species-level phylogenetics. The general methodology we present here facilitates to find phylogenetic markers in groups where microsatellites have been developed.

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