Open Access Research article

Conflicting phylogenetic signals in the SlX1/Y1 gene in Silene

Anja Rautenberg1, Dmitry Filatov2, Bodil Svennblad3, Nahid Heidari1 and Bengt Oxelman14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Systematic Biology, EBC, Uppsala University, Sweden

2 Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, UK

3 Mathematical Statistics, Department of Mathematics, Uppsala University, Sweden

4 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:299  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-299

Published: 30 October 2008



Increasing evidence from DNA sequence data has revealed that phylogenies based on different genes may drastically differ from each other. This may be due to either inter- or intralineage processes, or to methodological or stochastic errors. Here we investigate a spectacular case where two parts of the same gene (SlX1/Y1) show conflicting phylogenies within Silene (Caryophyllaceae). SlX1 and SlY1 are sex-linked genes on the sex chromosomes of dioecious members of Silene sect. Elisanthe.


We sequenced the homologues of the SlX1/Y1 genes in several Sileneae species. We demonstrate that different parts of the SlX1/Y1 region give different phylogenetic signals. The major discrepancy is that Silene vulgaris and S. sect. Conoimorpha (S. conica and relatives) exchange positions. To determine whether gene duplication followed by recombination (an intralineage process) may explain the phylogenetic conflict in the Silene SlX1/Y1 gene, we use a novel probabilistic, multiple primer-pair PCR approach. We did not find any evidence supporting gene duplication/loss as explanation to the phylogenetic conflict.


The phylogenetic conflict in the Silene SlX1/Y1 gene cannot be explained by paralogy or artefacts, such as in vitro recombination during PCR. The support for the conflict is strong enough to exclude methodological or stochastic errors as likely sources. Instead, the phylogenetic incongruence may have been caused by recombination of two divergent alleles following ancient interspecific hybridization or incomplete lineage sorting. These events probably took place several million years ago. This example clearly demonstrates that different parts of the genome may have different evolutionary histories and stresses the importance of using multiple genes in reconstruction of taxonomic relationships.