Abstract Background Adaptive divergence, which usually explains rapid diversification within island species, might involve the positive selection of genes. Anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway (ABP) genes are important for floral diversity, and are related to stress resistance and pollination, which could be responsible for species diversification. Previous studies have shown that upstream genes of ABP are subject to selective constraints and have a slow evolutionary rate, while the constraints on downstream genes are lower. Results In this study, we confirmed these earlier observations of heterogeneous evolutionary rate in upstream gene CHS and the downstream gene UFGT, both of which were expressed in Scutellaria sp. inflorescence buds. We found a higher evolutionary rate and positive selection for UFGT. The codons under positive selection corresponded to the diversified regions, and the presence or absence of an Îą-helix might produce conformation changes in the Rossmann-like fold structure. The significantly high evolutionary rates for UFGT genes in Taiwanese lineages suggested rapid accumulation of amino acid mutations in island species. The results showed positive selection in closely related species and explained the high diversification of floral patterns in these recently diverged species. In contrast, non-synonymous mutation rate decreases in long-term divergent species could reduce mutational load and prevent the accumulation of deleterious mutations. Conclusions Together with the positive selection of transcription factors for ABP genes described in a previous study, these results confirmed that positive selection takes place at a translational level and suggested that the high divergence of ABP genes is related to the floral diversity in island Scutellaria species.
|Date made available||2016|