Demographic events are important in shaping the population genetic structure and exon variation can play roles in adaptive divergence. Twelve nuclear genes were used to investigate the species-level phylogeography of Rhododendron oldhamii, test the difference in the average GC content of coding sites and of third codon positions with that of surrounding non-coding regions, and test exon variants associated with environmental variables. Spatial expansion was suggested by R2 index of the aligned intron sequences of all genes of the regional samples and sum of squared deviations statistic of the aligned intron sequences of all genes individually and of all genes of the regional and pooled samples. The level of genetic differentiation was significantly different between regional samples. Significantly lower and higher average GC contents across 94 sequences of the 12 genes at third codon positions of coding sequences than that of surrounding non-coding regions were found. We found seven exon variants associated strongly with environmental variables. Our results demonstrated spatial expansion of R. oldhamii in the late Pleistocene and the optimal third codon position could end in A or T rather than G or C as frequent alleles and could have been important for adaptive divergence in R. oldhamii.
ASJC Scopus subject areas