High genome-wide mutation rates in vegetatively propagated bermudagrass

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A cascade DNA amplification strategy that generates arbitrary signatures from amplification profiles (ASAP) was used to measure genome-wide mutation rates in bermudagrass (Cynodon). ASAP quantified nucleotide changes that were induced by irradiation, genetic instabilities and normal vegetative growth of cultivars and accessions of sterile interspecific hybrids. DNA sequence divergence between cultivar 'Tifway' and its γ radiation-induced mutant 'Tifway II' (0.70±0.66%) was comparable to estimates in radiation-induced mutants and spontaneous sports of chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat.). A similar divergence in sequence (0.95 ± 0.20%) was observed in the pairwise comparison of 17 nondisjunctive 'Tifgreen' and 'Tifdwarf' accessions. Mutation during normal Tifdwarf vegetative growth was evaluated by planting sprigs and sampling their offspring. Somatic sequence divergence levels (0.004 ± 0.007%) resulted in a mutation rate of 1.05 x 10-8 per nucleotide per generation, assuming that a bermudagrass sprig constitutes a generation of growth. These rates were comparable to those found in germinal cells and individuals of either human or Drosophila melanogaster, supporting the notion that eukaryotic evolution is generation rather than time dependent. The high accumulation of somatic mutations (10 per triploid genome) is consistent with a model whereby mutation load in a population exhibiting obligate vegetative reproduction is substantially higher than in a population under sexual or asexual reproduction. These constraints could be the cause of reported genetic instabilities in the Tifgreen-Tifdwarf complex. Finally, a long-term rate measured across accessions and indicative of the accumulation of mutations in 17 Tifgreen-Tifdwarf populations (μ = 1.02 x 10-8 per nucleotide per generation) was strikingly congruent with the bermudagrass vegetative mutation rate, suggesting absence of evolutionary constraints in the sampled genomic regions. Mutation rates calculated from across-accesions divergence estimates (5.18 ± 0.53%) indicated that plant material was evolving 100 times faster (3.8 x 10-7 changes per nucleotide per year) than a molecular clock rate estimate for grasses, probably resulting from the compound effect of clonal growth and life span of the hybrid plant material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1211-1221
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • ASAP
  • Bermudagrass
  • DNA fingerprinting
  • Mutation rate
  • Turfgrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

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