Evolutionary rate variation at multiple levels of biological organization in plant mitochondrial DNA

Daniel B. Sloan, Camille M. Barr, Matthew S. Olson, Stephen R. Keller, Douglas R. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


We examined patterns of mitochondrial polymorphism and divergence in the angiosperm genus Silene and found substantial variation in evolutionary rates among species and among lineages within species. Moreover, we found corresponding differences in the amount of polymorphism within species. We argue that, along with our earlier findings of rate variation among genes, these patterns of rate heterogeneity at multiple phylogenetic scales are most likely explained by differences in underlying mutation rates. In contrast, no rate variation was detected in nuclear or chloroplast loci. We conclude that mutation rate heterogeneity is a characteristic of plant mitochondrial sequence evolution at multiple biological scales and may be a crucial determinant of how much polymorphism is maintained within species. These dramatic patterns of variation raise intriguing questions about the mechanisms driving and maintaining mutation rate heterogeneity in plant mitochondrial genomes. Additionally, they should alter our interpretation of many common phylogenetic and population genetic analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-246
Number of pages4
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Molecular clock
  • Mutators
  • Silene latifolia
  • Silene noctiflora
  • Silene vulgaris
  • mtDNA


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