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Keywords:

  • Abies;
  • chloroplast DNA;
  • interspecific hybridization;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • nuclear DNA;
  • RAPD;
  • SSCP

Abstract

Sub-alpine Abies veitchii and A. homolepis are distributed in the central part of Honshu Island, Japan, and their habitats are segregated vertically. These species sometimes form a mixed forest in the overlapping area of the two species, that is, in the upper limit of the A. homolepis habitat and the lower limit of A. veitchii. These species have been considered to be distantly related because they were classified into different sections by most conventional classifications. No natural hybridization has been reported between the two species. The aim of this study was to demonstrate, through the use of molecular markers, whether natural hybridization takes place between these two species at two experimental sites on Mt. Fuji, where the species occur naturally. DNA markers from paternally inherited chloroplast DNA (cpDNA), maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and biparentally inherited nuclear DNA (nDNA), were used for this study. As organelle DNA markers, polymerase chain reaction–single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR–SSCP) markers were developed to determine the maternal and paternal species for each individual. Two of 334 individuals possessed a cpDNA haplotype derived from A. homolepis and a mtDNA haplotype from A. veitchii. Furthermore, the nDNA of these two individuals was analysed using the random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) assay to investigate their genomic composition. RAPD analysis indicated that the nuclear genomes of the two individuals were derived from both species. We conclude that A. veitchii and A. homolepis produce natural hybrids, and that their systematic relationship should be re-evaluated.