The phylogenetic potential of entire 26S rDNA sequences in plants.

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Abstract

18S ribosomal RNA genes are the most widely used nuclear sequences for phylogeny reconstruction at higher taxonomic levels in plants. However, due to a conservative rate of evolution, 18S rDNA alone sometimes provides too few phylogenetically informative characters to resolve relationships adequately. Previous studies using partial sequences have suggested the potential of 26S or large-subunit (LSU) rDNA for phylogeny retrieval at taxonomic levels comparable to those investigated with 18S rDNA. Here we explore the patterns of molecular evolution of entire 26S rDNA sequences and their impact on phylogeny retrieval. We present a protocol for PCR amplification and sequencing of entire (approximately 3.4 kb) 26S rDNA sequences as single amplicons, as well as primers that can be used for amplification and sequencing. These primers proved useful in angiosperms and Gnetales and likely have broader applicability. With these protocols and primers, entire 26S rDNA sequences were generated for a diverse array of 15 seed plants, including basal eudicots, monocots, and higher eudicots, plus two representatives of Gnetales. Comparisons of sequence dissimilarity indicate that expansion segments (or divergence domains) evolve 6.4 to 10.2 times as fast as conserved core regions of 26S rDNA sequences in plants. Additional comparisons indicate that 26S rDNA evolves 1.6 to 2.2 times as fast as and provides 3.3 times as many phylogenetically informative characters as 18S rDNA; compared to the chloroplast gene rbcL, 26S rDNA evolves at 0.44 to 1.0 times its rate and provides 2.0 times as many phylogenetically informative characters. Expansion segment sequences analyzed here evolve 1.2 to 3.0 times faster than rbcL, providing 1.5 times the number of informative characters. Plant expansion segments have a pattern of evolution distinct from that found in animals, exhibiting less cryptic sequence simplicity, a lower frequency of insertion and deletion, and greater phylogenetic potential.

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