Open Access Research article

Developing molecular tools and insights into the Penstemon genome using genomic reduction and next-generation sequencing

Rhyan B Dockter1, David B Elzinga1, Brad Geary1, P Jeff Maughan1, Leigh A Johnson2, Danika Tumbleson1, JanaLynn Franke1, Keri Dockter1 and Mikel R Stevens1*

Author Affiliations

1 Plant and Wildlife Sciences Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

2 Biology Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

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BMC Genetics 2013, 14:66  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-66

Published: 8 August 2013



Penstemon’s unique phenotypic diversity, hardiness, and drought-tolerance give it great potential for the xeric landscaping industry. Molecular markers will accelerate the breeding and domestication of drought tolerant Penstemon cultivars by, creating genetic maps, and clarifying of phylogenetic relationships. Our objectives were to identify and validate interspecific molecular markers from four diverse Penstemon species in order to gain specific insights into the Penstemon genome.


We used a 454 pyrosequencing and GR-RSC (genome reduction using restriction site conservation) to identify homologous loci across four Penstemon species (P. cyananthus, P. davidsonii, P. dissectus, and P. fruticosus) representing three diverse subgenera with considerable genome size variation. From these genomic data, we identified 133 unique interspecific markers containing SSRs and INDELs of which 51 produced viable PCR-based markers. These markers produced simple banding patterns in 90% of the species × marker interactions (~84% were polymorphic). Twelve of the markers were tested across 93, mostly xeric, Penstemon taxa (72 species), of which ~98% produced reproducible marker data. Additionally, we identified an average of one SNP per 2,890 bp per species and one per 97 bp between any two apparent homologous sequences from the four source species. We selected 192 homologous sequences, meeting stringent parameters, to create SNP markers. Of these, 75 demonstrated repeatable polymorphic marker functionality across the four sequence source species. Finally, sequence analysis indicated that repetitive elements were approximately 70% more prevalent in the P. cyananthus genome, the largest genome in the study, than in the smallest genome surveyed (P. dissectus).


We demonstrated the utility of GR-RSC to identify homologous loci across related Penstemon taxa. Though PCR primer regions were conserved across a broadly sampled survey of Penstemon species (93 taxa), DNA sequence within these amplicons (12 SSR/INDEL markers) was highly diverse. With the continued decline in next-generation sequencing costs, it will soon be feasible to use genomic reduction techniques to simultaneously sequence thousands of homologous loci across dozens of Penstemon species. Such efforts will greatly facilitate our understanding of the phylogenetic structure within this important drought tolerant genus. In the interim, this study identified thousands of SNPs and over 50 SSRs/INDELs which should provide a foundation for future Penstemon phylogenetic studies and breeding efforts.

Breeding domesticated Penstemon; Genome reduction; Homologous sequences; LTR retroelements; Plantaginaceae; Pyrosequencing; Repetitive elements