The evolutionary history of the common chloroplast genome of Arabidopsis thaliana and A. suecica


Correspondence (present address): Mattias Jakobsson, Bioinformatics Program, Department of Human Genetics, University of Michigan, 2017 Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2218, USA.
Tel.: +734 615 9545; fax: +734 615 6553;


The evolutionary history of the common chloroplast (cp) genome of the allotetraploid Arabidopsis suecica and its maternal parent A. thaliana was investigated by sequencing 50 fragments of cpDNA, resulting in 98 polymorphic sites. The variation in the A. suecica sample was small, in contrast to that of the A. thaliana sample. The time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the A. suecica cp genome alone was estimated to be about one 37th of the TMRCA of both the A. thaliana and A. suecica cp genomes. This corresponds to A. suecica having a MRCA between 10 000 and 50 000 years ago, suggesting that the entire species originated during, or before, this period of time, although the estimates are sensitive to assumptions made about population size and mutation rate. The data was also consistent with the hypothesis of A. suecica being of single origin. Isolation-by-distance and population structure in A. thaliana depended upon the geographical scale analysed; isolation-by-distance was found to be weak on the global scale but locally pronounced. Within the genealogical cp tree of A. thaliana, there were indications that the root of the A. suecica species is located among accessions of A. thaliana that come primarily from central Europe. Selective neutrality of the cp genome could not be rejected, despite the fact that it contains several completely linked protein-coding genes.