Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 304–317 | Cite as

Rapid evolution of the plastid translational apparatus in a nonphotosynthetic plant: Loss or accelerated sequence evolution of tRNA and ribosomal protein genes

  • Kenneth H. Wolfe
  • Clifford W. Mordent
  • Stephanie C. Ems
  • Jeffrey D. Palmer


The vestigial plastid genome of Epifagus virginiana (beechdrops), a nonphotosynthetic parasitic flowering plant, is functional but lacks six ribosomal protein and 13 tRNA genes found in the chloroplast DNAs of photosynthetic flowering plants. Import of nuclear gene products is hypothesized to compensate for many of these losses. Codon usage and amino acid usage patterns in Epifagus plastic genes have not been affected by the tRNA gene losses, though a small shift in the base composition of the whole genome (toward A + T -richness) is apparent. The ribosomal protein and tRNA genes that remain have had a high rate of molecular evolution, perhaps due to relaxation of constraints on the translational apparatus. Despite the compactness and extensive gene loss, one translational gene (infA, encoding initiation factor 1) that is a pseudogene in tobacco has been maintained intact in Epifagus.

Key words

tRNAs ribosomal proteins plastid translation accelerated evolution gene loss codon usage Epifagus virginiana 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth H. Wolfe
    • 1
  • Clifford W. Mordent
    • 1
  • Stephanie C. Ems
    • 1
  • Jeffrey D. Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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