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High Genetic Diversity and Population Differentiation in the Critically Endangered Plant Species Trailliaedoxa gracilis (Rubiaceae)

Jia, Jing, Zeng, Liangqin, Gong, Xun
Plant molecular biology reporter 2016 v.34 no.1 pp. 327-338
Rubiaceae, chloroplast DNA, chloroplasts, drainage, genetic variation, haplotypes, humans, nuclear genome, nucleotide sequences, phylogeography, rivers, valleys, China
Trailliaedoxa gracilis W. W. Smith et Forrest (Rubiaceae), a Chinese endemic monotypic genus belonging to the Alberteae (Rubiaceae), exhibits a narrow distribution in the dry valleys of the Jinsha River and Red River drainage area in southwestern China. The few sites at which T. gracilis occurs are fragmented and isolated, and several are highly vulnerable to human disturbance. As T. gracilis is a protected plant with a second-degree national priority, the genetic diversity and structure of the populations of this species should be investigated to determine the most suitable conservation strategy. In this study, two chloroplast regions and one nuclear region were used to investigate the genetic diversity, genetic structure, and demographic history of T. gracilis. We observed a high total genetic diversity (H T = 0.952 and 0.966) and low average within-population diversity (H S = 0.07 and 0.489) based on cpDNA and nDNA analyses. Thus, a strong genetic structure (F ST = 0.98049 and 0.59731) was detected. A phylogeographic structure was detected by nuclear DNA analysis (N ST > G ST, P < 0.05); however, the chloroplast data did not show a significant phylogeographic structure (N ST < G ST, P > 0.05). The Bayesian skyline plot and isolation with migration analysis were used to estimate the demographic history of T. gracilis. The results indicated that a marked bottleneck effect occurred during the glacial-interglacial of the Pleistocene. Among the extant populations of T. gracilis, the population found in ChunJiang, LuQuan, and YuXi showed the highest haplotype diversity based on cpDNA sequences and should be given priority for protection. According to the nDNA analysis, every population presented a high level of diversity and a high content of private haplotypes. Therefore, every population should be protected.