Molecular Systematics of Plants

pp 36-49

Mitochondrial DNA in Plant Systematics: Applications and Limitations

  • Jeffrey D. Palmer

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In the last decade, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis has had a major impact on the study of phylogeny and population genetics in animals (Avise et al., 1987; Moritz et al., 1987; Harrison, 1989). In plants, however, chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) has been the molecule of choice for molecular phylogenetic studies (Palmer et al., 1988; see also many other chapters in this volume). Studies of nuclear DNA, principally of the nuclear ribosomal RNA genes, have also been important in these efforts (Hamby and Zimmer, chapter 4, and Appels and Baum, Chapter 5, this volume). It is the purpose of this chapter to review the factors that have contributed to the relative neglect of mtDNA for phylogenetic reconstruction in plants and to assess the applications of mtDNA analysis for future systematic studies. I first review information on the structure and evolution of plant mtDNA, with emphasis on the genus Brassica, and then discuss the application of mtDNA data to phylogenetic studies.