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  1. Townsend, Jeffrey (Ed.)
    Abstract Dissecting the relationship between gene function and substitution rates is key to understanding genome-wide patterns of molecular evolution. Biochemical pathways provide powerful systems for investigating this relationship because the functional role of each gene is often well characterized. Here, we investigate the evolution of the flavonoid pigment pathway in the colorful Petunieae clade of the tomato family (Solanaceae). This pathway is broadly conserved in plants, both in terms of its structural elements and its MYB, basic helix–loop–helix, and WD40 transcriptional regulators, and its function has been extensively studied, particularly in model species of petunia. We built a phylotranscriptomic data set for 69 species of Petunieae to infer patterns of molecular evolution across pathway genes and across lineages. We found that transcription factors exhibit faster rates of molecular evolution (dN/dS) than their targets, with the highly specialized MYB genes evolving fastest. Using the largest comparative data set to date, we recovered little support for the hypothesis that upstream enzymes evolve slower than those occupying more downstream positions, although expression levels do predict molecular evolutionary rates. Although shifts in floral pigmentation were only weakly related to changes affecting coding regions, we found a strong relationship with the presence/absence patterns of MYBmore »transcripts. Intensely pigmented species express all three main MYB anthocyanin activators in petals, whereas pale or white species express few or none. Our findings reinforce the notion that pathway regulators have a dynamic history, involving higher rates of molecular evolution than structural components, along with frequent changes in expression during color transitions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. Polyploidy is widely acknowledged to have played an important role in the evolution and diversification of vascular plants. However, the influence of genome duplication on population-level dynamics and its cascading effects at the community level remain unclear. In part, this is due to persistent uncertainties over the extent of polyploid phenotypic variation, and the interactions between polyploids and co-occurring species, and highlights the need to integrate polyploid research at the population and community level. Here, we investigate how community-level patterns of phylogenetic relatedness might influence escape from minority cytotype exclusion, a classic population genetics hypothesis about polyploid establishment, and population-level species interactions. Focusing on two plant families in which polyploidy has evolved multiple times, Brassicaceae and Rosaceae, we build upon the hypothesis that the greater allelic and phenotypic diversity of polyploids allow them to successfully inhabit a different geographic range compared to their diploid progenitor and close relatives. Using a phylogenetic framework, we specifically test (1) whether polyploid species are more distantly related to diploids within the same community than co-occurring diploids are to one another, and (2) if polyploid species tend to exhibit greater ecological success than diploids, using species abundance in communities as an indicator of successful establishment.more »Overall, our results suggest that the effects of genome duplication on community structure are not clear-cut. We find that polyploid species tend to be more distantly related to co-occurring diploids than diploids are to each other. However, we do not find a consistent pattern of polyploid species being more abundant than diploid species, suggesting polyploids are not uniformly more ecologically successful than diploids. While polyploidy appears to have some important influences on species co-occurrence in Brassicaceae and Rosaceae communities, our study highlights the paucity of available geographically explicit data on intraspecific ploidal variation. The increased use of high-throughput methods to identify ploidal variation, such as flow cytometry and whole genome sequencing, will greatly aid our understanding of how such a widespread, radical genomic mutation influences the evolution of species and those around them.« less
  3. Abstract

    Red flowers have evolved repeatedly across angiosperms and are frequently examined in an ecological context. However, less is known about the biochemical basis of red colouration in different taxa. In this study, we examine the spectral properties, anthocyanin composition and carotenoid expression of red flowers in the tomato family, Solanaceae, which have evolved independently multiple times across the group. Our study demonstrates that Solanaceae typically make red flowers either by the sole production of red anthocyanins or, more commonly, by the dual production of purple or blue anthocyanins and orange carotenoids. In using carotenoids to modify the effect of purple and/or blue anthocyanins, these Solanaceae species have converged on the same floral hue as those solely producing red anthocyanins, even when considering the visual system of pollinators. The use of blue anthocyanins in red flowers appears to differ from other groups, and suggests that the genetic changes underlying evolutionary shifts to red flowers may not be as predictable as previously suggested.