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Phylogeny and evolutionary history of Leymus (Triticeae; Poaceae) based on a single-copy nuclear gene encoding plastid acetyl-CoA carboxylase

Xing Fan12, Li-Na Sha1, Rui-Wu Yang3, Hai-Qin Zhang1, Hou-Yang Kang1, Cun-Bang Ding3, Li Zhang3, You-Liang Zheng12 and Yong-Hong Zhou12*

Author Affiliations

1 Triticeae Research Institute, Sichuan Agricultural University, Wenjiang 611130, Sichuan, PR China

2 Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Resources and Improvement, Ministry of Education, Sichuan Agricultural University, Yaan 625014, Sichuan, PR China

3 Department of Biology and Science, Sichuan Agricultural University, Yaan 625014, Sichuan, PR China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:247  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-247

Published: 8 October 2009



Single- and low- copy genes are less likely subject to concerted evolution, thus making themselves ideal tools for studying the origin and evolution of polyploid taxa. Leymus is a polyploid genus with a diverse array of morphology, ecology and distribution in Triticeae. The genomic constitution of Leymus was assigned as NsXm, where Ns was presumed to be originated from Psathyrostachys, while Xm represented a genome of unknown origin. In addition, little is known about the evolutionary history of Leymus. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic relationship, genome donor, and evolutionary history of Leymus based on a single-copy nuclear Acc1 gene.


Two homoeologues of the Acc1 gene were isolated from nearly all the sampled Leymus species using allele-specific primer and were analyzed with those from 35 diploid taxa representing 18 basic genomes in Triticeae. Sequence diversity patterns and genealogical analysis suggested that (1) Leymus is closely related to Psathyrostachys, Agropyron, and Eremopyrum; (2) Psathyrostachys juncea is an ancestral Ns-genome donor of Leymus species; (3) the Xm genome in Leymus may be originated from an ancestral lineage of Agropyron and Eremopyrum triticeum; (4) the Acc1 sequences of Leymus species from the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau are evolutionarily distinct; (5) North America Leymus species might originate from colonization via the Bering land bridge; (6) Leymus originated about 11-12MYA in Eurasia, and adaptive radiation might have occurred in Leymus during the period of 3.7-4.3 MYA and 1.7-2.1 MYA.


Leymus species have allopolyploid origin. It is hypothesized that the adaptive radiation of Leymus species might have been triggered by the recent upliftings of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and subsequent climatic oscillations. Adaptive radiation may have promoted the rapid speciation, as well as the fixation of unique morphological characters in Leymus. Our results shed new light on our understanding of the origin of Xm genome, the polyploidization events and evolutionary history of Leymus that could account for the rich diversity and ecological adaptation of Leymus species.