J Syst Evol

• Research Article •    

Chloroplast genomes and ribosomal DNA provide insights into divergence and morphological evolution of alpine Tongoloa

Ling-Jian Gui1, Deng-Feng Xie1, Chang Peng1, Ting Ren1, Li-Ying Yu2, Song-Dong Zhou1, and Xing-Jin He1*   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Bio-Resources and Eco-Environment of Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, Sichuan, China;
    2 Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants, Nanning 530023, Guangxi, China
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:xjhe@scu.edu.cn
  • Received:2022-07-31 Accepted:2023-08-03 Online:2023-11-27

Abstract: Tongoloa is a herbaceous genus of East Asia Clade (Apiaceae) distributed in the alpine regions. The use of DNA fragments has not provided a well-resolved evolutionary history. For this research, we primarily collected samples from the type localities of Tongoloa and closely related taxa in the Hengduan Mountains. The chloroplast (cp) genomes and nuclear ribosomal (nr) DNA repeats of 27 taxa were assembled using genome skimming sequencing reads. We analyzed the characteristics of the Tongoloa cp genome, and found a remarkable expansion of the Inverted Repeats. Three genes (ndhC, ndhJ, and petG) related to photosynthesis appear to have undergone significant selective pressure. Through high-resolution phylogenetic analysis, the cpDNA provided compelling evidence supporting the inclusion of Sinolimprichtia as an early taxon within Tongoloa. However, the nrDNA suggested that Tongoloa and Sinolimprichtia belong to distinct branches. Morphological analysis showed that Tongoloa has broadly oval fruits with a cordate base, whereas the fruits of Sinolimprichtia are long-obovate with an obtuse base. The specific fruit morphology of Sinolimprichtia was found to be nested within Tongoloa in the cpDNA phylogenetic tree. Ancient introgression and chloroplast capture provide the most plausible explanation for the significant conflict between the nrDNA and cpDNA phylogenies. Our study highlights the potential impact of the complex evolutionary history of Tongoloa on the challenges encountered in previous taxonomic treatments.

Key words: chloroplast genome, nrDNA, phylogeny, the Hengduan Mountains, Tongoloa