Reticulate evolutionary history of a complex group of grasses: phylogeny of Elymus StStHH allotetraploids based on three nuclear genes
Mason-Gamer, Roberta J.
Burns, Melissa M.
PublisherPublic Library of Science
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Background: Elymus (Poaceae) is a large genus of polyploid species in the wheat tribe Triticeae. It is polyphyletic, exhibiting many distinct allopolyploid genome combinations, and its history might be further complicated by introgression and lineage sorting. We focus on a subset of Elymus species with a tetraploid genome complement derived from Pseudoroegneria (genome St) and Hordeum (H). We confirm the species’ allopolyploidy, identify possible genome donors, and pinpoint instances of apparent introgression or incomplete lineage sorting. Methodology/Principal Findings: We sequenced portions of three unlinked nuclear genes—phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, b-amylase, and granule-bound starch synthase I—from 27 individuals, representing 14 Eurasian and North American StStHH Elymus species. Elymus sequences were combined with existing data from monogenomic representatives of the tribe, and gene trees were estimated separately for each data set using maximum likelihood. Trees were examined for evidence of allopolyploidy and additional reticulate patterns. All trees confirm the StStHH genome configuration of the Elymus species. They suggest that the StStHH group originated in North America, and do not support separate North American and European origins. Our results point to North American Pseudoroegneria and Hordeum species as potential genome donors to Elymus. Diploid P. spicata is a prospective St-genome donor, though conflict among trees involving P. spicata and the Eurasian P. strigosa suggests either introgression of GBSSI sequences from P. strigosa into North American Elymus and Pseudoroegneria, or incomplete lineage sorting of ancestral GBSSI polymorphism. Diploid H. californicum and/or allotetraploid H. jubatum are possible H-genome donors; direct involvement of an allotetraploid Hordeum species would simultaneously introduce two distinct H genomes to Elymus, consistent with some of the relationships among H-genome sequences in Hordeum and Elymus. Conclusions/Significance: Comparisons among molecular phylogenetic trees confirm allopolyploidy, identify potential genome donors, and highlight cases of apparent introgression or incomplete lineage sorting. The complicated history of this group emphasizes an inherent problem with interpreting conflicts among bifurcating trees—identifying introgression and determining its direction depend on which tree is chosen as a starting point of comparison. In spite of difficulties with interpretation, differences among gene trees allow us to identify reticulate species and develop hypotheses about underlying evolutionary processes.