Genome size variation in the Fagaceae and its implications for trees

Si Chong Chen, Charles H. Cannon, Chai Shian Kua, Jia Jia Liu, David W. Galbraith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Polyploidization is a major source of diversification among plants, particularly during cladogenesis, but most evidence involves herbaceous temperate species. The prevalence of polyploidy among woody taxa is largely unknown, especially among tropical groups. In this study, we examined genome size variation globally and at several taxonomic levels within the Fagaceae. This family has diversified in the northern temperate zone (Quercus) and at least twice in the Asian tropics (Lithocarpus and Castanopsis), allowing us to examine genomic size evolution across a broad latitudinal range. We compared nuclear DNA contents from 78 species in six genera, including new measurements for 171 individuals from 47 Chinese species using standard flow cytometry methods. No evidence suggests that polyploidization or whole genome duplication has occurred in the family. Genome size varied among genera, but limited variation was present in each genus and species. In general, tropical species had larger genomes than temperate species, but the ancestral state cannot be determined given current evidence. Partial duplication does seem to occur among species as within genus variation was larger than within species variation. A review of the literature suggests that genome size and even chromosome structure is highly conserved among woody plants and trees. We propose that ploidy level and genome size are conserved among trees because they participate in diverse syngameons. This behavior would provide similar benefits to polyploidization but avoid exclusion from the syngameon. This conservatism in genome size and structure should enhance ongoing whole genome studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-988
Number of pages12
JournalTree Genetics and Genomes
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • C-value
  • Flow cytometry
  • Polyploidization
  • Syngameon
  • Whole genome duplication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Horticulture


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