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Small genomes dominate in plants growing on serpentine soils in West Balkans, an exhaustive study of 8 habitats covering 308 taxa

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Abstract

Aims

Habitats on ultramafic substrate present a hostile environment for plant development. We aimed to determine whether any particular range of genome size is favoured in such habitats.

Methods

Genome sizes of natural serpentinophyte populations were estimated using propidium iodide cytometry and compared with published data by phylogeny paired t-tests with plants from other substrata.

Results

The panel included 308 taxa belonging to 213 genera, with new values for 28 genera and 93 species. Using Leitch’s criteria, 56 % taxa belong to the group very small genomes (1C ≤ 1.4 pg), 22 % to small (1.4–3.5 pg), 19 % to intermediary (3.5–14 pg), 3 % to large (14–35 pg) and 0.31 % to very large (1C ≥ 35 pg). The majority of species were either indifferent for substrate (56 %) or facultative serpentinophytes (33 %). Most obligate serpentinophytes possessed very small genomes, and none exceeded 5 pg (1C). On average, plants growing on serpentine exhibited lower Cx-values than the same taxa growing on other soil types. About 4 % of species were annuals and 88 % perennials. Hemicryptophytes were dominant. Presence of at least two ploidy levels was recorded for 10 species.

Conclusions

Water stress, high temperatures and presence of heavy metals in serpentine habitats impose a high selective pressure and favour perennial species with very small genomes.

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Abbreviations

2C DNA:

DNA content of one replicated holoploid genome

1C DNA:

DNA content of one non-replicated holoploid genome

1Cx-value:

Monoploid genome size

pg:

Picogramme

Mbp:

Mega base pair

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Acknowledgements

We thank Nicolas Maunoury and Olivier Catrice for their assistance on the IBiSA Cytometry Platform of the Imagif Cell Biology Unit of the Gif campus (www.imagif.cnrs.fr). We also thank the IFR87 La plante et son environnement, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments to improve the quality of the paper. This study was financially supported by the Regional grant Ile de France (SETCI R232) for a co-tutelle PhD and NATO “Science For Peace and Security” Programme (Collaborative Linkage Grant). O. H. benefitted from a ‘Juan de la Cierva’ contract (JCI-2010- 07516). V. Stevanović was supported by Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Serbia (Grant no. 173030).

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Correspondence to Fatima Pustahija.

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Suppl. Fig. S1

Cumulative frequency curves of 1C genome size for three increasingly harsh environments: A) 103 taxa from calcareous littoral communities (Mt Biokovo, Croatia; Siljak-Yakovlev et al. 2010); B) 68 taxa from several continental calcareous mountains (Central Bosnia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Siljak-Yakovlev et al. 2010) and C) 308 serpentine taxa (present study). The median values (arrows) are indicated for each curve: 1.55, 1.37 and 1.25 pg respectively. (JPEG 90.5 kb)

Table S1

Comparison of our data and 332 published 1C-values (pg), chromosome number (2n) and ploidy level (x) concerning 210 taxa. (DOC 606 kb)

Table S2

List of the 83 taxa used to carry out the phylogenetic t-test, indicating for each taxa the 1Cx-value (pg) on serpentines, the 1Cx-value (pg) on other substrate and the ploidy level (x). (DOC 156 kb)

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Pustahija, F., Brown, S.C., Bogunić, F. et al. Small genomes dominate in plants growing on serpentine soils in West Balkans, an exhaustive study of 8 habitats covering 308 taxa. Plant Soil 373, 427–453 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-013-1794-x

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