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The Genus Clusia L.: Molecular Evidence for Independent Evolution of Photosynthetic Flexibility


Institute of Botany
University of Tübingen 72076 Tübingen


Abstract: Members of the Clusiaceae genus Clusia (tropical trees and shrubs) belong to the small group of dicotyledonous trees which are able to perform crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). Most of the species are able to switch between C3 and CAM modes of photosynthesis and only a few are restricted to either C3 or CAM. In order to discover possible phylogenetic relationships with regard to the mode of photosynthesis, we investigated 17 species of the genus Clusia, and one species each of the Clusiaceae genera Oedematopus and Hypericum on the basis of internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences between the 18S and 26S coding regions of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Little length variation was detected in the ITS region of Clusia species. ITS1 sequences ranged from 255 to 260 bp and ITS2 sequences from 208 to 210 bp. Neighbour-joining and parsimony analyses of these sequences resulted in considerable differences in cluster formation when compared to a classification based on morphological characteristics. The molecular data also give no indication of a group-specific evolution of modes of photosynthesis, i.e., C3 and CAM. We thus conclude that CAM has evolved independently several times within the genus Clusia.