Mating systems and selection efficacy: a test using chloroplastic sequence data in Angiosperms

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Selfing is assumed to reduce selection efficacy, especially purifying selection. This can be tested using molecular data, for example by comparing the Dn/Ds ratio between selfing and outcrossing lineages. So far, little evidence of relaxed selection against weakly deleterious mutations (as inferred by a higher Dn/Ds ratio) in selfers as compared to outcrossers has been found, contrary to the pattern often observed between asexual and sexual lineages. However, few groups have been studied to date. To further test this hypothesis, we compiled and analysed chloroplastic sequence data sets in several plant groups. We found a general trend towards relaxed selection in selfers in our data sets but with weak statistical support. Simulations suggested that the results were compatible with weak-to-moderate Dn/Ds ratio differences in selfing lineages. Simple theoretical predictions also showed that the ability to detect relaxed selection in selfers could strongly depend on the distribution of the effects of deleterious mutations on fitness. Our results are compatible with a recent origin of selfing lineages whereby deleterious mutations potentially have a strong impact on population extinction or with a more ancient origin but without a marked effect of deleterious mutations on the extinction dynamics.

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