Transcriptome Signatures of Selection, Drift, Introgression, and Gene Duplication in the Evolution of an Extremophile Endemic Plant. Academic Article uri icon


  • Plants on serpentine soils provide extreme examples of adaptation to environment, and thus offer excellent models for the study of evolution at the molecular and genomic level. Serpentine outcrops are derived from ultramafic rock and have extremely low levels of essential plant nutrients (e.g., N, P, K, and Ca), as well as toxic levels of heavy metals (e.g., Ni, Cr, and Co) and low moisture availability. These outcrops provide habitat to a number of endemic plant species, including the annual mustard Caulanthus amplexicaulis var. barbarae (Cab) (Brassicaceae). Its sister taxon, C. amplexicaulis var. amplexicaulis (Caa), is intolerant to serpentine soils. Here, we assembled and annotated comprehensive reference transcriptomes of both Caa and Cab for use in protein coding sequence comparisons. A set of 29,443 reciprocal best Blast hit (RBH) orthologs between Caa and Cab was compared with identify coding sequence variants, revealing a high genome-wide dN/dS ratio between the two taxa (mean=0.346). We show that elevated dN/dS likely results from the composite effects of genetic drift, positive selection, and the relaxation of negative selection. Further, analysis of paralogs within each taxon revealed the signature of a period of elevated gene duplication (10 Ma) that is shared with other species of the tribe Thelypodieae, and may have played a role in the striking morphological and ecological diversity of this tribe. In addition, distribution of the synonymous substitution rate, dS, is strongly bimodal, indicating a history of reticulate evolution that may have contributed to serpentine adaptation.

published proceedings

  • Genome Biol Evol

author list (cited authors)

  • Hawkins, A. K., Garza, E. R., Dietz, V. A., Hernandez, O. J., Hawkins, W. D., Burrell, A. M., & Pepper, A. E.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017 11:11 AM