Alternate paths of evolution for the photosynthetic gene rbcL in four nonphotosynthetic species of Orobanche

Andrea D. Wolfe, Claude W. DePamphilis

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We have determined the nucleotide sequence for the Rubisco large subunit from four holoparasitic species of Orobanche. Intact open reading frames are present in two species (O. corymbosa and O. fasciculata), whereas the remaining species (O. cernua and O. ramosa) have rbcL pseudogenes. Sequences for rbcL 5'-UTRs from species of Orobanche have few changes in the promoter and ribosome binding sites compared to photosynthetic higher plants. Comparison of rbcL 3'-UTR sequences for Nicotiana, Ipomoea, Cuscuta, and Orobanche reveal that nucleotide sequences from parasitic plants have regions capable of forming stem-loop structures, but 56-69 nt are detected upstream of the stem-loop in the parasitic plants compared to their photosynthetic relatives. Although rbcL pseudogenes of O. cernua and O. ramosa have many large and small deletions few indels are shared in common implying that their common ancestor probably had an intact rbcL reading frame. Intact rbcL reading frames in O. corymbosa and O. fasciculata retain a bias of synonymous over nonsynonymous substitutions and deduced protein sequences are consistent with potentially functional Rubisco large subunit proteins. A conservative model of random substitution processes in pseudogene sequences estimates that the probability is low (P < 0.028) that these sequences would retain an open reading frame by chance. Species of Orobanche have either had recent photosynthetic ancestors, implying multiple independent losses of photosynthesis in this genus, or the rbcL, gene may serve an unknown function in some nonphotosynthetic plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-977
Number of pages13
JournalPlant molecular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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