Horizontal Gene Transfer of Plastid Genes between Parasitic Plant Balanophora and Hosts

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jianhua Li, Hope College

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This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.


Examples of lateral gene flow have been previously described in numerous species of land plants. Mitochondrial horizontal gene transfer (HGT) seems relatively widespread, and the first case of nuclear HGT was recently described between Striga and its monocot host. In this study we present evidence of HGT in the chloroplast genome of the parasitic plant genus Balanophora. The foreign DNA was found in the IR region of the chloroplast genome in a population of Balanophora from China. The markers sampled place this population of Balanophora sister to its host plants which were identified as members of the legume family. Based on these findings, we suspect that the close proximity of parasite to host facilitated an exchange of chloroplast genetic material that has persisted in this population of Balanophora.

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