A four-gene study of evolutionary relationships in Solanum section Acanthophora.
The "spiny solanums," Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum (Solanaceae), comprise a large lineage with over 350 species and include the cultivated aubergines, Solanum melongena. Despite the importance of this subgenus, phylogenetic relationships among these taxa are currently unclear. The present research contributes to this understanding while focusing on Solanum section Acanthophora, a group of approximately 19 species defined by the presence of simple hairs, rather than the stellate hairs common across the rest of subgenus Leptostemonum. In this study we inferred phylogenetic relationships among 29 Solanum taxa, including 14 species of section Acanthophora, using DNA sequence data from two nuclear regions (ITS and the granule-bound starch synthase gene [GBSSI or waxy]) and two chloroplast regions (trnT-trnF and trnS-trnG). This combination of gene regions resulted in a well resolved phylogenetic hypothesis, with results strongly suggesting that Solanum sect. Acanthophora is not monophyletic, although the majority of taxa comprise a monophyletic lineage that is sister to Solanum section Lasiocarpa. Of the four gene regions, waxy was especially useful for phylogenetic inference, with both a high percentage of parsimony-informative sites and a low level of homoplasy. Further studies in progress will help elucidate relationships of sect. Acanthophora with respect to other members of subgenus Leptostemonum.