The Use of Chloroplast DNA to Resolve Plant Phylogenies: Noncoding Versus rbcL Sequences

Mol Biol Evol. 1994 Sep;11(5):769-77. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a040157.


Direct sequencing of polymerase chain reaction products is now an expanding area of plant systematics and evolution. Within angiosperms the rbcL gene has been widely sequenced and used for inferring plant phylogenies at higher taxonomic levels. Unfortunately rbcL does not usually contain enough information to resolve relationships between closely related genera, such as Hordeum, Triticum, and Aegilops. One solution to this problem could be to analyze noncoding regions of chloroplast DNA, which are supposed to evolve more rapidly than coding regions. Here we present pairwise comparisons among dicots and monocots for rbcL and two noncoding sequences of cpDNA (the trnL (UAA) intron and the intergenic spacer between the trnL (UAA) 3' exon and the trnF (GAA) gene). It appears that these regions evolve faster (more than three times faster, on average) than rbcL, as previously reported, and that the trnL intron evolves at a rate that is the same as that of the intergenic spacer. By the analysis of these regions, the genera Hordeum, Triticum, and Aegilops clearly could be distinguished. A phylogeny using trnL (UAA) intron sequences is also inferred for some species of the genus Gentiana L., clearly illustrating the phylogenetic utility of these zones at the generic level. The advantages and the disadvantages of the use of these regions to resolve plant phylogenies are discussed, as well as the desirability of a preliminary study before every large-scale analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Chloroplasts / genetics*
  • DNA, Chloroplast / genetics*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plants / classification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Chloroplast
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Plant Proteins
  • Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X75695
  • GENBANK/X75696
  • GENBANK/X75697
  • GENBANK/X75698
  • GENBANK/X75699
  • GENBANK/X75700
  • GENBANK/X75701
  • GENBANK/X75702
  • GENBANK/X75703
  • GENBANK/X75704
  • GENBANK/X75705
  • GENBANK/X75706
  • GENBANK/X75707
  • GENBANK/X75708
  • GENBANK/X75709
  • GENBANK/X75710
  • GENBANK/X75711
  • GENBANK/X75712
  • GENBANK/X75713
  • GENBANK/X75714
  • GENBANK/X75715
  • GENBANK/X75716
  • GENBANK/X76229
  • GENBANK/X76810
  • GENBANK/X76811
  • GENBANK/X76812
  • GENBANK/X76813
  • GENBANK/X76814
  • GENBANK/X76815
  • GENBANK/X76817