Current Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 275–286

Chloroplast DNA evolution among legumes: Loss of a large inverted repeat occurred prior to other sequence rearrangements


  • Jeffrey D. Palmer
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Michigan
  • Bernardita Osorio
    • Department of Plant BiologyCarnegie Institution of Washington
  • Jane Aldrich
    • The Standard Oil Company
  • William F. Thompson
    • Department of Plant BiologyCarnegie Institution of Washington

DOI: 10.1007/BF00355401

Cite this article as:
Palmer, J.D., Osorio, B., Aldrich, J. et al. Curr Genet (1987) 11: 275. doi:10.1007/BF00355401


We have compared the sequence organization of four previously uncharacterized legume chloroplast DNAs - from alfalfa, lupine, wisteria and subclover — to that of legume chloroplast DNAs that either retain a large, ribosomal RNA-encoding inverted repeat (mung bean) or have deleted one half of this repeat (broad bean). The circular, 126 kilobase pair (kb) alfalfa chloroplast genome, like those of broad bean and pea, lacks any detectable repeated sequences and contains only a single set of ribosomal RNA genes. However, in contrast to broad bean and pea, alfalfa chloroplast DNA is unrearranged (except for the deletion of one segment of the inverted repeat) relative to chloroplast DNA from mung bean. Together with other findings reported here, these results allow us to determine which of the four possible inverted repeat configurations was deleted in the alfalfa-pea-broad bean lineage, and to show how the present-day broad bean genome may have been derived from an alfalfa-like ancestral genome by two major sequence inversions. The 147 kb lupine chloroplast genome contains a 22 kb inverted repeat and has essentially complete colinearity with the mung bean genome. In contrast, the 130 kb wisteria genome has deleted one half of the inverted repeat and appears colinear with the alfalfa genome. The 140 kb subclover genome has been extensively rearranged and contains a family of at least five dispersed repetitive sequence elements, each several hundred by in size; this is the first report of dispersed repeats of this size in a land plant chloroplast genome. We conclude that the inverted repeat has been lost only once among legumes and that this loss occurred prior to all the other rearrangements observed in subclover, broad bean and pea. Of those lineages that lack the inverted repeat, some are stable and unrearranged, other have undergone a moderate amount of rearrangement, while still others have sustained a complex series of rearrangement either with or without major sequence duplications and transpositions.

Key words

Chloroplast genome evolutionInverted repeatInversionRepeated sequence
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© Springer-Verlag 1987