Disproportional plastome-wide increase of substitution rates and relaxed purifying selection in genes of carnivorous Lentibulariaceae

Mol Biol Evol. 2014 Mar;31(3):529-45. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst261. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


Carnivorous Lentibulariaceae exhibit the most sophisticated implementation of the carnivorous syndrome in plants. Their unusual lifestyle coincides with distinct genomic peculiarities such as the smallest angiosperm nuclear genomes and extremely high nucleotide substitution rates across all genomic compartments. Here, we report the complete plastid genomes from each of the three genera Pinguicula, Utricularia, and Genlisea, and investigate plastome-wide changes in their molecular evolution as the carnivorous syndrome unfolds. We observe a size reduction by up to 9% mostly due to the independent loss of genes for the plastid NAD(P)H dehydrogenase and altered proportions of plastid repeat DNA, as well as a significant plastome-wide increase of substitution rates and microstructural changes. Protein-coding genes across all gene classes show a disproportional elevation of nonsynonymous substitutions, particularly in Utricularia and Genlisea. Significant relaxation of purifying selection relative to noncarnivores occurs in the plastid-encoded fraction of the photosynthesis ATP synthase complex, the photosystem I, and in several other photosynthesis and metabolic genes. Shifts in selective regimes also affect housekeeping genes including the plastid-encoded polymerase, for which evidence for relaxed purifying selection was found once during the transition to carnivory, and a second time during the diversification of the family. Lentibulariaceae significantly exhibit enhanced rates of nucleotide substitution in most of the 130 noncoding regions. Various factors may underlie the observed patterns of relaxation of purifying selection and substitution rate increases, such as reduced net photosynthesis rates, alternative paths of nutrient uptake (including organic carbon), and impaired DNA repair mechanisms.

Keywords: Lentibulariaceae; carnivorous plants; chloroplast genome; noncoding DNA; purifying selection; substitution rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution / genetics*
  • Carnivory
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Plant / genetics*
  • Genome, Plastid / genetics*
  • INDEL Mutation / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Physical Chromosome Mapping
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • DNA, Intergenic