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Genetic and epigenetic alterations after hybridization and genome doubling

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Hybridization and polyploidization are now recognized as major phenomena in the evolution of plants, promoting genetic diversity, adaptive radiation and speciation. Modern molecular techniques have recently provided evidence that allopolyploidy can induce several types of genetic and epigenetic events that are of critical importance for the evolutionary success of these plants: (1) chromosomal rearrangements within one or both parental genomes contribute toward proper meiotic pairing and isolation of the hybrid from its progenitors; (2) demethylation and activation of dormant transposable elements may trigger insertional mutagenesis and changes in local patterns of gene expression, facilitating rapid genomic reorganization; (3) rapid and reproducible loss of low copy DNA sequences appears to result in further differentiation of homoeologous chromosomes; and (4) organ-specific up- or down-regulation of one of the duplicated genes, may result in unequal expression or silencing one copy. All these alterations also have the potential, while stabilizing allopolyploid genomes, to produce novel expression patterns and new phenotypes, which together with increased heterozygosity and gene redundancy might confer on allopolyploids an elevated evolutionary potential, with effects at scales ranging from molecular to ecological. Although important advances have been made in understanding genomic responses to allopolyploidization, further insights are still expected to be gained in the near future, such as the direction and nature of the diploidization process, functional relevance of gene expression alterations, molecular mechanisms that result in adaptation to different ecologies/habitats, and ecological and evolutionary implications of recurrent polyploidization.


Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: 1: Molecular Systematics Section, Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3DS, U.K. 2: Genetics Section, Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3DS, U.K. 3: Department of Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, U.S.A.

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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