Documentation of reticulate evolution in peonies (Paeonia) using internal transcribed spacer sequences of nuclear ribosomal DNA: implications for biogeography and concerted evolution.
The internal transcribed spacers (ITS) of nuclear ribosomal DNA of 33 species of genus Paeonia (Paeoniaceae) were sequenced. In section Paeonia, different patterns of nucleotide additivity were detected in 14 diploid and tetraploid species at sites that are variable in the other 12 species of the section, suggesting that reticulate evolution has occurred. Phylogenetic relationships of species that do not show additivity, and thus ostensibly were not derived through hybridization, were reconstructed by parsimony analysis. The taxa presumably derived through reticulate evolution were then added to the phylogenetic tree according to additivity from putative parents. The study provides an example of successfully using ITS sequences to reconstruct reticulate evolution in plants and further demonstrates that the sequence data could be highly informative and accurate for detecting hybridization. Maintenance of parental sequences in the species of hybrid origin is likely due to slowing of concerted evolution caused by the long generation time of peonies. The partial and uneven homogenization of parental sequences displayed in nine species of putative hybrid origin may have resulted from gradients of gene conversion. The documented hybridizations may have occurred since the Pleistocene glaciations. The species of hybrid origin and their putative parents are now distantly allopatric. Reconstruction of reticulate evolution with sequence data, therefore, provides gene records for distributional histories of some of the parental species.