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What an Intron May Tell: Several Sexual Biospecies Coexist in Meriderma spp. (Myxomycetes)

Feng, Yun, Klahr, Anja, Janik, Paulina, Ronikier, Anna, Hoppe, Thomas, Novozhilov, Yuri K., Schnittler, Martin
Protist 2016 v.167 no.3 pp. 234-253
Physarales, genes, haplotypes, heterozygosity, introns, mountains, phylogeny, ribosomal RNA, ribotypes, sexual reproduction, spliceosomes, spore dispersal, topology
Specimens of the snowbank myxomycete Meriderma atrosporum agg. from five European mountain ranges were sequenced for parts of the nuclear small subunit ribosomal RNA gene (SSU) and the protein elongation factor 1 alpha gene (EF1A). A phylogeny of the EF1A gene, including a very variable spliceosomal intron, resulted in seven phylogroups, and this topology was confirmed by SSU sequences. Two thirds of all specimens were heterozygous for the EF1A gene, and the two haplotypes of these specimens occurred always in the same phylogroup. Except for two cases in closely related phylogroups all ribotypes were as well limited to one phylogroup. This pattern is consistent with the assumption of reproductively isolated sexual biospecies. Numbers of EF1A-haplotypes shared between mountain ranges correlate with geographical distance, suggesting relative isolation but occasional long-distance dispersal by spores. Most subpopulations (divided by putative biospecies and mountain ranges) were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. A simulation assuming panmixis within but not in between subpopulations suggested that similar numbers of shared genotypes can be created by chance through sexual reproduction alone. Our results support the biospecies concept, derived from experiments with cultivable members of the Physarales. We discuss the results on the background of possible reproductive options in myxomycetes.