Associations among cytoplasmic molecular markers, gender, and components of fitness in Silene vulgaris, a gynodioecious plant


D. McCauley. Fax: +1 615 343 6707; E-mail:


It has been suggested that the dynamics of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) or mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genetic markers used in studies of plant populations could be influenced by natural selection acting elsewhere in the genome. This could be particularly true in gynodioecious plants if cpDNA or mtDNA genetic markers are in gametic disequilibrium with genes responsible for sex expression. In order to investigate this possibility, a natural population of the gynodioecious plant Silene vulgaris was used to study associations among mtDNA haplotype, cpDNA haplotype, sex and some components of fitness through seed. Individuals were sampled for mtDNA and cpDNA haplotype as determined using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) methods, sex (female or hermaphrodite), fruit number, fruit set, seeds/fruit and seed germination. The sex of surviving germinating seeds was also noted. All individuals in the population fell into one of two cytoplasmic categories, designated haplotypes f and g by a unique electrophoretic signature in both the mtDNA and cpDNA. The subset of the population carrying haplotype g included a significantly higher proportion of females when compared with the sex ratio of the subset carrying the f haplotype. Haplotype g had a significantly higher fitness when measured by fruit number, fruit set and seeds/fruit, whereas haplotype f had significantly higher fitness when measured by seed germination. Offspring of individuals carrying haplotype g included a significantly greater proportion of females when compared with offspring of individuals carrying the f haplotype. Other studies of gynodioecious plants have shown that females generally have higher fitness through seed than hermaphrodites, but in this study not all fitness differences between haplotypes could be predicted from differences in haplotype-specific sex ratio alone. Rather, some differences in haplotype-specific fitness were due to differences in fitness between individuals of the same sex, but carrying different haplotypes. The results are discussed with regard to the potential for hitchhiking selection to influence the dynamics of the noncoding regions used to designate the cpDNA and mtDNA haplotypes.