Evolution of 5S rDNA unit arrays in the plant genus Nicotiana (Solanaceae)
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco, Solanaceae) has two 5S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) families, one of unit length similar to646 bp and the other similar to430 bp, that differ in the length of the 5S rDNA non-transcribed spacer (NTS). The long 5S rDNA family, found on the T genome of tobacco and in Nicotiana tomentosiformis, contains a GC-rich subregion that is absent in the short family. We designed primers for this subregion and generated a probe that we used against a range of Nicotiana and related Solanaceous species. We demonstrated the presence of the GC-rich subregion in a range of Nicotiana species, but it was absent in Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana longiflora, and two closely related genera, Petunia and Solanum. These data suggest that this subregion of the NTS is likely to have evolved with the genus Nicotiana. The absence of the subregion in N. sylvestris and N. longiflora is likely to have arisen by a deletion event in the evolution of section alatae. We demonstrate patterns of evolution in the 5S rDNA unit cluster in relation to a phylogenetic reconstruction of species relationships in section tomentosae. Nicotiana glutinosa diverged early from the section and contains a 5S rDNA family based on a 550-bp unit. After this divergence, 430- and 650-bp rDNA unit families evolved. The 650-bp family is found in all species of tomentosae (except N. glutinosa) and in tobacco. The 430-bp family within tomentosae includes the GC-rich subregion and is thus unrelated to the 430-bp family in N. sylvestris. Nicotiana setchellii is unusual in that it has three 5S rDNA loci, including one locus that is exceptionally large. This species, unique to tomentosae, has a very abundant 900-bp unit family. It is possible that this 900-bp family occurs on this one large locus. In N. tomentosa and N. kawakamii, the 650-bp family is predominant, whereas N. tomentosiformis and N. otophora have only the 650-bp family. There is no clear relationship between the number of 5S families and the number of 5S rDNA loci. Certainly the replacement of 5S rDNA units, perhaps by gene conversion, has occurred repeatedly in the evolution of genus Nicotiana.