`Junk' DNA and phenotypic evolution in Silene section Siphonomorpha

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One of the long-standing mysteries in genomic evolution is the observation that much of the genome is composed of repetitive DNA, resulting in inter- and intraspecific variation in nuclear DNA content. Our discovery of a negative correlation between nuclear DNA content and flower size in Silene latifolia has been supported by our subsequent investigation of changes in DNA content as a correlated response to selection on flower size. Moreover, we have observed a similar trend across a range of related dioecious species in Silene sect. Elisanthe. Given the presence of sex chromosomes in dioecious Silene species, and the tendency of sex chromosomes to accumulate repetitive DNA, it seems plausible that dioecious species undergo genomic evolution in ways that differ from what one might expect in hermaphroditic species. Specifically, we query whether the observed relationship between nuclear DNA content and flower size observed in dioecious Silene is a peculiarity of sex chromosome evolution. In the present study we investigated nuclear DNA content and flower size variation in hermaphroditic species of Silene sect. Siphonomorpha, as close relatives of the dioecious species studied previously. Although the nuclear DNA contents of these species were lower than those for species in sect. Elisanthe, there was still significant intra- as well as interspecific variation in nuclear DNA content. Flower size variation was found among species of sect. Siphonomorpha for petal claw and petal limb lengths, but not for calyx diameter. This last trait varies extensively in sect. Elisanthe, in part due to sex-specific selection. A negative correlation with nuclear DNA content was found across populations for petal limb length, but not for other floral dimensions. We conclude that impacts of nuclear DNA content on phenotypic evolution do manifest themselves in hermaphroditic species, so that the effects observed in sect. Elisanthe, and particularly in S. latifolia, while perhaps amplified by the genomic impacts of sex chromosomes, are not limited to dioecious taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
JournalGenetics Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008




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