Accelerated substitution rates, plastid genome evolution and cytonuclear coevolution in Geraniaceae




Weng, Mao-Lun

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Plastids are cytoplasmic organelles that are descendants of free-living prokaryotes. Since endosymbiosis, massive amounts of genetic material have been transferred from plastids to the nucleus. As a result plastids require the import of proteins encoded by nuclear genes that were formerly located in their ancestral bacterial genomes and the coordination between nucleus and plastid becomes vital for the cells. Among seed plants, the plastid genome is relatively conserved in gene order and content and has lower nucleotide substitution rates than the nucleus, but a few unrelated lineages display rearranged genomes and accelerated substitution rates. These unusual lineages present an opportunity to understand the relative roles of natural selection and neutral processes in shaping genome organization and evolutionary rates. They also provide a system to investigate how the accelerated substitution rate in plastids affects cytoplasmic-nuclear (cytonuclear) coevolution. My research uses Geraniaceae as a study system to investigate (1) the evolutionary processes governing accelerated rates of change in nucleotide substitutions and rearrangements in plastid genomes, and (2) coordinated evolution between plastid and nuclear genomes. In chapter two, the monophyly of three major clades within Pelargonium is confirmed. This phylogeny was then used to examine karyotype evolution and nucleotide substitution rates in the genus. A correlation between genome size and chromosome size but not number is observed. Also, both plastid and mitochondrial genes have accelerated substitution rates but with markedly disparate patterns. Chapter three focuses on reconstructing the genomic rearrangement events in the plastid genomes of Geraniaceae. The reconstructed ancestral Geraniaceae plastid genome is relatively unrearranged, but there are a large number of subsequent independent rearrangements in each genus. My analyses show that the distribution and content of repetitive sequences are significantly correlated with the degree of genomic rearrangements, and there is a positive correlation between nonsynonymous substitution rates and genomic rearrangements in Geraniaceae plastid genomes. Chapter four investigates the cytonuclear coevolution in plastid ribosomes of Geraniaceae. My data shows that both plastid-encoded and nuclear-encoded subunits of the plastid ribosome have accelerated nonsynonymous substitutions rates, and the analysis indicates that nuclear substitutions are driving increased substitution in plastid genes.



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