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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46260. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046260. Epub 2012 Sep 27.

Does the mode of plastid inheritance influence plastid genome architecture?

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  • 1Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Plastid genomes show an impressive array of sizes and compactnesses, but the forces responsible for this variation are unknown. It has been argued that species with small effective genetic population sizes are less efficient at purging excess DNA from their genomes than those with large effective population sizes. If true, one may expect the primary mode of plastid inheritance to influence plastid DNA (ptDNA) architecture. All else being equal, biparentally inherited ptDNAs should have a two-fold greater effective population size than those that are uniparentally inherited, and thus should also be more compact. Here, we explore the relationship between plastid inheritance pattern and ptDNA architecture, and consider the role of phylogeny in shaping our observations. Contrary to our expectations, we found no significant difference in plastid genome size or compactness between ptDNAs that are biparentally inherited relative to those that are uniparentally inherited. However, we also found that there was significant phylogenetic signal for the trait of mode of plastid inheritance. We also found that paternally inherited ptDNAs are significantly smaller (n = 19, p = 0.000001) than those that are maternally, uniparentally (when isogamous), or biparentally inherited. Potential explanations for this observation are discussed.

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