Comparative chloroplast genomics between the invasive weed Mikania micrantha and its indigenous congener Mikania cordata: structure variation, identification of highly divergent regions, divergence time estimation, and phylogenetic analysis.
Mikania micrantha and Mikania cordata are the only two species in genus Mikania (Asteraceae) in China. They share very similar morphological and life-history characteristics but occupy quite different habitats. Most importantly, they generate totally different ecological consequences. While M. micrantha has become an exotic invasive weed, M. cordata exists as an indigenous species with no harmful effects on native plants or habitats. As a continuous study of our previously reported M. micrantha chloroplast (cp) genome, in this study we have further sequenced the M. cordata cp genome to (1) conduct a comparative genome analysis to gain insights into the mechanism of invasiveness; (2) develop cp markers to examine the population genetic adaptation of M. micrantha; and (3) screen variable genome regions of phylogenetic utility. The M. cordata chloroplast genome is 151,984 bp in length and displays a typical quadripartite structure. The number and distribution of protein coding genes, tRNA genes, and rRNA genes of M. cordata are identical to those of M. micrantha. The main difference lays in that the pseudogenization of ndhF and a 118-bp palindromic repeat only arises in M. cordata. Fourteen highly divergent regions, 235 base substitutions, and 58 indels were identified between the two cp genomes. Phylogenetic inferences revealed a sister relationship between M. micrantha and M. cordata whose divergence was estimated to occur around 1.78 million years ago (MYA). Twelve cpSSR loci were detected to be polymorphic and adopted to survey the genetic adaptation of M. micrantha populations. No cpSSR loci were found to undergo selection. Our results build a foundation to examine the invasive mechanism of Mikania weed.