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Open Access Research article

Molecular evolution of Adh and LEAFY and the phylogenetic utility of their introns in Pyrus (Rosaceae)

Xiaoyan Zheng1, Chunyun Hu1, David Spooner2, Jing Liu1, Jiashu Cao1 and Yuanwen Teng1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Horticulture, the State Agricultural Ministry Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Growth, Development and Quality Improvement, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China

2 USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706-1590, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:255  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-255

Published: 14 September 2011

Abstract

Background

The genus Pyrus belongs to the tribe Pyreae (the former subfamily Maloideae) of the family Rosaceae, and includes one of the most important commercial fruit crops, pear. The phylogeny of Pyrus has not been definitively reconstructed. In our previous efforts, the internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) revealed a poorly resolved phylogeny due to non-concerted evolution of nrDNA arrays. Therefore, introns of low copy nuclear genes (LCNG) are explored here for improved resolution. However, paralogs and lineage sorting are still two challenges for applying LCNGs in phylogenetic studies, and at least two independent nuclear loci should be compared. In this work the second intron of LEAFY and the alcohol dehydrogenase gene (Adh) were selected to investigate their molecular evolution and phylogenetic utility.

Results

DNA sequence analyses revealed a complex ortholog and paralog structure of Adh genes in Pyrus and Malus, the pears and apples. Comparisons between sequences from RT-PCR and genomic PCR indicate that some Adh homologs are putatively nonfunctional. A partial region of Adh1 was sequenced for 18 Pyrus species and three subparalogs representing Adh1-1 were identified. These led to poorly resolved phylogenies due to low sequence divergence and the inclusion of putative recombinants. For the second intron of LEAFY, multiple inparalogs were discovered for both LFY1int2 and LFY2int2. LFY1int2 is inadequate for phylogenetic analysis due to lineage sorting of two inparalogs. LFY2int2-N, however, showed a relatively high sequence divergence and led to the best-resolved phylogeny. This study documents the coexistence of outparalogs and inparalogs, and lineage sorting of these paralogs and orthologous copies. It reveals putative recombinants that can lead to incorrect phylogenetic inferences, and presents an improved phylogenetic resolution of Pyrus using LFY2int2-N.

Conclusions

Our study represents the first phylogenetic analyses based on LCNGs in Pyrus. Ancient and recent duplications lead to a complex structure of Adh outparalogs and inparalogs in Pyrus and Malus, resulting in neofunctionalization, nonfunctionalization and possible subfunctionalization. Among all investigated orthologs, LFY2int2-N is the best nuclear marker for phylogenetic reconstruction of Pyrus due to suitable sequence divergence and the absence of lineage sorting.