Length variation in the internal transcribed spacers of ribosomal DNA in Picea abies and related species

Karvonen, P., Szmidt, A. E., and Savolainen, O.

Theoretical and Applied Genetics (1994) 89: 969-974.

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The structure and variation of nuclear ribosomal DNA (rDNA) units of Picea abies, (L.) Karst. was studied by restriction mapping and Southern hybridization. Conspicuous length variation was found in the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of Picea abies, although the length of this region is highly conserved both within and among, most of the plant species. Two types of ITS variants (A and B), displaying a size difference of 0.5 kb in the ITS2 region, were present within individuals of Picea abies from Sweden, Central Europe and Siberia. A preliminary survey of 14 additional Eurasian and North American species of Picea suggested that length variation in the ITS region is widespread in this genus. Alltogether three length variants (A, B and C) were identified. Within individuals of eight Picea species, two length variants were present within the genome (combinations of A and B variants in P. glehnii, P. maximowiczii , P. omorika, P. polita and P. sitchensis and variants B and C in P. jezoensis, P. likiangensis and P. spinulosa). Within individuals from five species, however only one rDNA variant was present in their genome (variant A in P. aurantiaca, P. engelmannii, P. glauca, P. koraiensis and P. koyamai ; variant B in P. bicolor). The ITS length variation will be useful as a molecular marker in evolutionary studies of the Picea species complex, whose phylogeny is controversial. The presence of intraindividual variation in, and shared polymorphism of the, ITS length variants raises questions about the occurrence of interspecific hybridization during the evolutionary history of Picea.
Key words: Evolution, rDNA, internal transcribed spacers, Picea.

by Alfred E. Szmidt