Rates and patterns of plastid genome evolution in the flowering plant families Geraniaceae and Poaceae



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The plastid genomes of land plants are generally highly conserved in gene content and order, genome organization, and rates of sequence evolution; however, a few groups have experienced genomic change. The previously published sequence of Pelargonium X hortorum (Geraniaceae) reveals the largest, most rearranged plastid genome among land plants, and rate heterogeneity and genomic change have been documented in the monocot family Poaceae. Three initiatives were taken to characterize plastid genome evolution better in these groups. First, I estimate and compare genome-wide rates of sequence evolution in Geraniaceae genes relative to other angiosperms. An analysis of nucleotide substitutions for 72 plastid genes from 47 angiosperms, including nine Geraniaceae, shows that values of dN are accelerated in ribosomal protein and RNA polymerase genes. dN/dS, an indicator of selection, is significantly elevated in the same two classes of genes and ATPase genes. Second, I sequenced three additional Geraniaceae plastid genomes (Erodium texanum, Geranium palmatum, and Monsonia speciosa) and compare these sequences to each other, P. X hortorum, and other rosids. Geraniaceae plastid genomes are highly variable in size, gene content and order, and base composition. The genome of M. speciosa is among the smallest land plant plastid genomes, and one copy of the IR region in E. texanum has been lost. Gene/intron loss and gene duplication are rampant in Geraniaceae plastid genomes, and a number of losses are phylogenetically inconsistent. To explain the unusual rates and patterns of genome evolution in Geraniaceae, I propose a model of aberrant DNA repair coupled with altered gene expression. Lastly, I characterize genome evolution in the family Poaceae and order Poales. There has been a recent surge in the availability of Poaceae sequences, but a comprehensive analysis of genome evolution had not been performed that included any non-grass Poales taxa. I present the sequence of Typha latifolia (Typhaceae), the first non-grass Poales sequenced to date, and I show that Poaceae plastid genomes exhibit increased genomic rearrangements and nucleotide substitutions. These analyses show the extent of lineage-specific rate acceleration on the branch leading to Poaceae and deceleration during the diversification of the family.