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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Sep;29(9):2231-9. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss093. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Accession-specific haplotypes of the internal transcribed spacer region in Arabidopsis thaliana--a means for barcoding populations.

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Institute of Plant Science, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Graz, Austria.


Eukaryote genomes contain multiple copies of nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA) harboring both highly conserved and variable regions. This has made nrDNA the most popular genetic marker for phylogenetic studies and the region of choice for barcoding projects. Furthermore, many scientists believe that all copies of nrDNA within one nucleus are practically identical due to concerted evolution. Here, we investigate the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana for intragenomic variation of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of nrDNA. Based on a modified deep sequencing approach, we provide a comprehensive list of ITS polymorphisms present in the two most widely used accessions of A. thaliana-Col-0 and Ler. Interestingly, we found that some polymorphisms are shared between these genetically very distinct accessions. On the other hand, the high number of accession-specific polymorphisms shows that each accession can be clearly and easily characterized by its specific ITS polymorphism patterns and haplotypes. Network analysis based on the detected haplotypes demonstrates that the study of ITS polymorphism patterns and haplotypes is an extremely powerful tool for population genetics. Using the methods proposed here, it will now be possible to extend the traditionally species-bound barcoding concept to populations.

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