Theoretical models have shown that metapopulation structure can influence the evolution of the sex ratio in gynodioecious plants when the fitness of females and/or hermaphrodites varies among populations with the local sex ratio. Such frequency-dependent fitness has been demonstrated previously in natural populations of Silene vulgaris, a gynodioecious plant in which sex determination is cytonuclear. We investigated whether there was an association between chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) haplotype and sex expression, with the assumption that cpDNA haplotypes could be associated with specific male sterility variants likely found in the mitochondrial DNA, owing to co-transmission of the two cytoplasmic genomes. Two cpDNA haplotypes were studied in a collection of 111 individuals of known sex taken from 20 natural populations found in Virginia, USA. The set of haplotype 1 individuals consisted of 71.4% hermaphrodites, where as only 7.7% of the haplotype 2 individuals were hermaphroditic; a highly statistically significant difference. By extension of a previous model it was also shown that the differential clustering of these two haplotypes into local populations contributes to among-population sex ratio variation and has the potential to lower the fitness of haplotype 2 by greater than 50%, relative to that expected with no population structure.
- Chloroplast DNA
- Silene vulgaris