Impact of mating systems on patterns of sequence polymorphism in flowering plants

Sylvain Glemin, Eric Bazin, Deborah Charlesworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A fundamental challenge in population genetics and molecular evolution is to understand the forces shaping the patterns of genetic diversity within and among species. Among them, mating systems are thought to have important influences on molecular diversity and genome evolution. Selfing is expected to reduce effective population size, N-e, and effective recombination rates, directly leading to reduced polymorphism and increased linkage disequilibrium compared with outcrossing. Increased isolation between populations also results directly from selfing or indirectly from evolutionary changes, such as small flowers and low pollen output, leading to greater differentiation of molecular markers than under outcrossing. The lower effective recombination rate increases the likelihood of hitch-hiking, further reducing within-deme diversity of selfers and thus increasing their genetic differentiation. There are also indirect effects on molecular evolutionary processes. Low Ne reduces the efficacy of selection; in selfers, selection should thus be less efficient in removing deleterious mutations. The rarity of heterozygous sites in selfers leads to infrequent action of biased conversion towards GC, which tends to increase sequences' GC content in the most highly recombining genome regions of outcrossers. To test these predictions in plants, we used a newly developed sequence polymorphism database to investigate the effects of mating system differences on sequence polymorphism and genome evolution in a wide set of plant species. We also took into account other life-history traits, including life form (whether annual or perennial herbs, and woody perennial) and the modes of pollination and seed dispersal, which are known to affect enzyme and DNA marker polymorphism. We show that among various life-history traits, mating systems have the greatest influence on patterns of polymorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3011-3019
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1604
Early online date14 Sep 2006
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2006


  • mating system
  • selfing
  • sequence polymorphism
  • effective population size
  • selection
  • recombination


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