A molecular phylogeny of apiaceae subfamily apioideae: Evidence from nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer sequences

Stephen R. Downie, Deborah S. Katz-Downie

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Phylogenetic relationships among 40 New World and Old World members of Apiaceae subfamily Apioideae, representing seven of the eight tribes and eight of the ten subtribes commonly recognized in the subfamily, were inferred from nucleotide sequence variation in the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of 18-26S nuclear ribosomal DNA. Although the sequences are alignable, with only 11% of sites excluded from the analyses because of alignment ambiguity, divergence values in pairwise comparisons of unambiguous positions among all taxa were high and ranged from 0.5 to 33.2% of nucleotides in ITS 1 and from 0 to 33.2% of nucleotides in ITS 2. Average sequence divergence across both spacer regions was 18.4% of nucleotides. Phylogenies derived from ITS sequences estimated using neighbor-joining analysis of substitution rates, and maximum likelihood and parsimony methods give trees of essentially similar topology and indicate that: (1) there is little support for any existing system of classification of the subfamily that is based largely on morphological and anatomical features of the mericarp; (2) there is a major phylogenetic division within the subfamily, with one clade comprising the genus Smyrnium and those taxa belonging to Drude's tribes Dauceae, Scandiceae, and Laserpitieae and the other clade comprising all other examined taxa; and (3) the genera Arracacia, Coaxana, Coulterophytum, Enantiophylla, Myrrhidendron, Prionosciadium, and Rhodosciadium, all endemic to Mexico and Central America, comprise a clade but their relationships to other New World taxa are equivocal. A phylogeny derived from parsimony analysis of chloroplast DNA rpoC1 intron sequences is consistent with, but considerably less resolved than, relationships derived from these ITS regions. This study affirms that ITS sequences are useful for phylogenetic inference among closely related members of Apioideae but, owing to high rates of nucleotide substitution, are less useful in resolving relationships among the more ancestral nodes of the phylogeny.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-251
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1996


  • Apiaceae
  • Apioideae
  • Internal transcribed spacer
  • Molecular phylogeny
  • Nuclear ribosomal DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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