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    The early vascular plants in the genus Selaginella, which is the sole genus of the Selaginellaceae family, have an important place in evolutionary history, along with ferns, as such plants are valuable resources for deciphering plant evolution. In this study, we sequenced and assembled the plastid genome (plastome) sequences of two Selaginella tamariscina individuals, as well as Selaginella stauntoniana and Selaginella involvens. Unlike the inverted repeat (IR) structures typically found in plant plastomes, Selaginella species had direct repeat (DR) structures, which were confirmed by Oxford Nanopore long-read sequence assembly. Comparative analyses of 19 lycophytes, including two Huperzia and one Isoetes species, revealed unique phylogenetic relationships between Selaginella species and related lycophytes, reflected by structural rearrangements involving two rounds of large inversions that resulted in dynamic changes between IR and DR blocks in the plastome sequence. Furthermore, we present other uncommon characteristics, including a small genome size, drastic reductions in gene and intron numbers, a high GC content, and extensive RNA editing. Although the 16 Selaginella species examined may not fully represent the genus, our findings suggest that Selaginella plastomes have undergone unique evolutionary events yielding genomic features unparalleled in other lycophytes, ferns, or seed plants.


    Hyeonah Shim, Hyeon Ju Lee, Junki Lee, Hyun-Oh Lee, Jong-Hwa Kim, Tae-Jin Yang, Nam-Soo Kim. Plastid Genomes of the Early Vascular Plant Genus Selaginella Have Unusual Direct Repeat Structures and Drastically Reduced Gene Numbers. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Jan 11;22(2)

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    PMID: 33440692

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