Intraspecific variation in mitochondrial genome sequence, structure, and gene content in Silene vulgaris, an angiosperm with pervasive cytoplasmic male sterility


Author for correspondence:

Daniel B. Sloan

Tel: +1 203.737.3116



  • In angiosperms, mitochondrial-encoded genes can cause cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS), resulting in the coexistence of female and hermaphroditic individuals (gynodioecy).
  • We compared four complete mitochondrial genomes from the gynodioecious species Silene vulgaris and found unprecedented amounts of intraspecific diversity for plant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
  • Remarkably, only about half of overall sequence content is shared between any pair of genomes. The four mtDNAs range in size from 361 to 429 kb and differ in gene complement, with rpl5 and rps13 being intact in some genomes but absent or pseudogenized in others. The genomes exhibit essentially no conservation of synteny and are highly repetitive, with evidence of reciprocal recombination occurring even across short repeats (< 250 bp). Some mitochondrial genes exhibit atypically high degrees of nucleotide polymorphism, while others are invariant. The genomes also contain a variable number of small autonomously mapping chromosomes, which have only recently been identified in angiosperm mtDNA. Southern blot analysis of one of these chromosomes indicated a complex in vivo structure consisting of both monomeric circles and multimeric forms.
  • We conclude that S. vulgaris harbors an unusually large degree of variation in mtDNA sequence and structure and discuss the extent to which this variation might be related to CMS.