Open Access Open Badges Research article

Selection occurs within linear fruit and during the early stages of reproduction in Robinia pseudoacacia

Cun-Quan Yuan12, Yu-Han Sun1, Yun-Fei Li3, Ke-Qi Zhao1, Rui-Yang Hu1 and Yun Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Engineering Laboratory for Tree Breeding; Key Laboratory of Genetics and Breeding in Forest Trees and Ornamental Plants, Ministry of Education, College of Biological Sciences and Technology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China

2 Department of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China

3 Wenquan Nursery, Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, Beijing 100095, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:53  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-53

Published: 21 March 2014



Pollen donor compositions differ during the early stages of reproduction due to various selection mechanisms. In addition, ovules linearly ordered within a fruit have different probabilities of reaching maturity. Few attempts, however, have been made to directly examine the magnitude and timing of selection, as well as the mechanisms during early life stages and within fruit. Robinia pseudoacacia, which contains linear fruit and non-random ovule maturation and abortion patterns, has been used to study the viability of selection within fruit and during the early stages of reproduction. To examine changes in the pollen donor composition during the early stages of reproduction and of progeny originating from different positions within fruit, paternity analyses were performed for three early life stages (aborted seeds, mature seeds and seedlings) in the insect-pollinated tree R. pseudoacacia.


Selection resulted in an overall decrease in the level of surviving selfed progeny at each life stage. The greatest change was observed between the aborted seed stage and mature seed stage, indicative of inbreeding depression (the reduced fitness of a given population that occurs when related individual breeding was responsible for early selection). A selective advantage was detected among paternal trees. Within fruits, the distal ends showed higher outcrossing rates than the basal ends, indicative of selection based on the order of seeds within the fruit.


Our results suggest that selection exists both within linear fruit and during the early stages of reproduction, and that this selection can affect male reproductive success during the early life stages. This indicates that tree species with mixed-mating systems may have evolved pollen selection mechanisms to increase the fitness of progeny and adjust the population genetic composition. The early selection that we detected suggests that inbreeding depression caused the high abortion rate and low seed set in R. pseudoacacia.

Pollen donor composition; Inbreeding depression; Paternity analysis; Robinia pseudoacacia; Viability selection