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BMC Evol Biol. 2010 Jun 28;10:200. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-200.

Evolutionary patterns at the RNase based gametophytic self - incompatibility system in two divergent Rosaceae groups (Maloideae and Prunus).

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Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, University of Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, 4150-180 Porto, Portugal.



Within Rosaceae, the RNase based gametophytic self-incompatibility (GSI) system has been studied at the molecular level in Maloideae and Prunus species that have been diverging for, at least, 32 million years. In order to understand RNase based GSI evolution within this family, comparative studies must be performed, using similar methodologies.


It is here shown that many features are shared between the two species groups such as levels of recombination at the S-RNase (the S-pistil component) gene, and the rate at which new specificities arise. Nevertheless, important differences are found regarding the number of ancestral lineages and the degree of specificity sharing between closely related species. In Maloideae, about 17% of the amino acid positions at the S-RNase protein are found to be positively selected, and they occupy about 30% of the exposed protein surface. Positively selected amino acid sites are shown to be located on either side of the active site cleft, an observation that is compatible with current models of specificity determination. At positively selected amino acid sites, non-conservative changes are almost as frequent as conservative changes. There is no evidence that at these sites the most drastic amino acid changes may be more strongly selected.


Many similarities are found between the GSI system of Prunus and Maloideae that are compatible with the single origin hypothesis for RNase based GSI. The presence of common features such as the location of positively selected amino acid sites and lysine residues that may be important for ubiquitylation, raise a number of issues that, in principle, can be experimentally addressed in Maloideae. Nevertheless, there are also many important differences between the two Rosaceae GSI systems. How such features changed during evolution remains a puzzling issue.

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