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Geographical gradients in the genome size variation of wild coffee trees (Coffea) native to Africa and Indian Ocean islands

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The genus Coffea, mainly native to Africa and to the Indian Ocean islands (Mascarocoffea), accounts for 124 species. Genome size data are available for 23 African species. The aim of this study was to assess the genome size of 44 Mascarocoffea species and to investigate possible association with species geographic distribution, stomata traits, and species relationships. 2 C values were measured using flow cytometry. A lyophilization procedure for leaves was tested. The 2 C nuclear DNA content of Mascarocoffea species ranged from 0.96 to 1.41 pg. Coffea mauritiana and Coffea humblotiana have the smallest genomes and Coffea millotii has the largest. Mean 2 C DNA for Mascarocoffea and Africa is 1.19 and 1.43 pg, respectively. The overall DNA values corresponded to two partially overlapped normal distributions: one harboring species from east Africa Mascarocoffea, the other harboring species from west/central Africa. Plotted on a geographical map according to the native origin of species, these values showed a gradient in Madagascar and Africa. Genome sizes increased following a north to southeast gradient in Madagascar and an east to west gradient in Africa. None, or only weak correlations were noted between genome size and stomata parameters. Genetically close species could be highly distinctive in their genome size while divergent species could be similarly sized. The non-random geographic distribution and habitat of species, and the absence of correlation between genome size and genetic relationships, suggest that during Coffea genome evolution, both DNA content increase and/or decrease occurred independently in Africa and in the Indian Ocean Islands.

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Fresh leaves


Guard cell length


Hierarchical clustering


Honestly significant difference


Leaf length


Lyophilized leaves


Million years


Propidium Iodide


Stomata density


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Razafinarivo NJ receives a PhD fellowship from IRD and benefits from the RubiComp IRD funds. The Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC) contributes to maintaining the field collection at Kianjavato, Madagascar. We thank FOFIFA authorities and all people who facilitated access and field work at the Kianjavato research station, Madagascar.

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Correspondence to Norosoa J. Razafinarivo.

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Communicated by D. Grattapaglia

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Razafinarivo, N.J., Rakotomalala, JJ., Brown, S.C. et al. Geographical gradients in the genome size variation of wild coffee trees (Coffea) native to Africa and Indian Ocean islands. Tree Genetics & Genomes 8, 1345–1358 (2012).

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