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DNA sequencing unlocks relationships among flowering plants
Date:2/23/2010

ort, said study co-author Pam Soltis, distinguished professor and Florida Museum of Natural History curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics.

The new study at UF's Florida Museum of Natural History analyzed 86 complete plastid genome sequences from a wide range of plant species. Plastids are the plant cell component responsible for photosynthesis.

Previous genetic analyses of Pentapetalae failed to untangle the relationships among living species, suggesting that the plants diverged rapidly over 5 million years. Researchers selected genomes to sequence based on their best guess of genetic relationships from the previous sequencing work.

Genome sequencing is more time-consuming for plants than animals because plastid DNA is about 10 times larger than the mitochondrial DNA used in studying animal genomes. But continual improvements in DNA sequencing technology are now allowing researchers to analyze those larger amounts of data more quickly.

The study provides an important framework for further investigating evolutionary relationships by providing a much clearer picture of the deep divergence that led to the split within flowering plants, which then led to speciation in the two separate branches.

Eventually, researchers hope to match these evolutionary bursts with geological and climatic events in the earth's history. "I think we're starting to get to a point with a dated tree where we could start looking at what was happening at some of those time frames," Pam Soltis said.


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Contact: Pam Soltis
psoltis@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-273-1964
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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