Coevolution of apomixis and genome size within the genus Hypericum
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Trends concerning coevolution of mode of reproduction and genome size were elucidated by screening both components in 71 species/subspecies of the genus Hypericum. Two independent agamic complexes were identified (sections Ascyreia with ten, and Hypericum with five apomictic species). In the phylogenetically younger section Hypericum, the relative DNA content of apomicts is increased solely by polyploidy. The apomicts of the evolutionarily older section Ascyreia have significantly larger genomes than all other species due to polyploidization and higher DNA content per chromosome. An accumulation of retroelements might be one reason for the larger genomes. The male fertility of the apomicts was reduced compared to sexuals, although all apomicts were facultative pseudogamous, forming reduced male gametes. Another form of apomixis (obligate pseudogamous with unreduced male gametes), probably indicating an escape from interspecific sterility, was found in H. scabrum, the only case of asexual seed formation outside of sections Ascyreia and Hypericum. The described scenario for evolution of apomixis in relation to genome size deserves consideration in harnessing of apomixis.