Functional loss of all ndh genes in an otherwise relatively unaltered plastid genome of the holoparasitic flowering plant Cuscuta reflexa
We have cloned and sequenced an area of about 9.0 kb of the plastid DNA (ptDNA) from the holoparasitic flowering plant Cuscuta reflexa to investigate the evolutionary response of plastid genes to a reduced selective pressure. The region contains genes for the 16S rRNA, a subunit of a plastid NAD(P)H dehydrogenase (ndhB), three transfer RNAs (trnA, trnI, trnV) as well as the gene coding for the ribosomal protein S7 (rps7). While the other genes are strongly conserved in C. reflexa, the ndhB gene is a pseudogene due to many frameshift mutations. In addition we used heterologous gene probes to identify the other ndh genes encoded by the plastid genome in higher plants. No hybridization signals could be obtained, suggesting that these genes are either lost or strongly altered in the ptDNA of C. reflexa. Together with evidence of deleted genes in the ptDNA of C. reflexa, the plastid genome can be grouped into four classes reflecting a different evolutionary rate in each case. The phylogenetic position of Cuscuta and the significance of ndh genes in the plastid genome of higher plants are discussed.