Evolution of genome size in Brassicaceae

Ann Bot. 2005 Jan;95(1):229-35. doi: 10.1093/aob/mci016.


Background and aims: Brassicaceae, with nearly 340 genera and more than 3350 species, anchors the low range of angiosperm genome sizes. The relatively narrow range of DNA content (0.16 pg < 1C < 1.95 pg) was maintained in spite of extensive chromosomal change. The aim of this study was to erect a cytological and molecular phylogenetic framework for a selected subset of the Brassicacae, and use this as a template to examine genome size evolution in Brassicaceae.

Methods: DNA contents were determined by flow cytometry and chromosomes were counted for 34 species of the family Brassicaceae and for ten Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes. The amplified and sequenced ITS region for 23 taxa (plus six other taxa with known ITS sequences) were aligned and used to infer evolutionary relationship by parsimony analysis.

Key results: DNA content in the species studied ranged over 8-fold (1C = 0.16-1.31 pg), and 4.4-fold (1C = 0.16-0.71 pg) excluding allotetraploid Brassica species. The 1C DNA contents of ten Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes showed little variation, ranging from 0.16 pg to 0.17 pg.

Conclusions: The tree roots at an ancestral genome size of approximately 1x = 0.2 pg. Arabidopsis thaliana (1C = 0.16 pg; approximately 157 Mbp) has the smallest genome size in Brassicaceae studied here and apparently represents an evolutionary decrease in genome size. Two other branches that represent probable evolutionary decreases in genome size terminate in Lepidium virginicum and Brassica rapa. Branches in the phylogenetic tree that represent probable evolutionary increases in genome size terminate in Arabidopsis halleri, A. lyrata, Arabis hirsuta, Capsella rubella, Caulanthus heterophyllus, Crucihimalaya, Lepidium sativum, Sisymbrium and Thlaspi arvense. Branches within one clade containing Brassica were identified that represent two ancient ploidy events (2x to 4x and 4x to 6x) that were predicted from published comparative mapping studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Brassicaceae / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Plant
  • DNA, Plant / analysis
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Phylogeny
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Plant