It is hypothesized that the highly conserved inverted repeats (IR) structure of land plant plastid genomes (plastomes) is beneficial for stabilizing plastome organization, whereas the mechanism of the occurrence and stability maintenance of the recently reported direct repeats (DR) structure is yet awaiting further exploration. Here we describe the DR structure of the Selaginella vardei (Selaginellaceae) plastome, to elucidate the mechanism of DR occurrence and stability maintenance.The plastome of S. vardei is 121,254 bp in length and encodes 76 genes, of which 62 encode proteins, 10 encode tRNAs, and four encode rRNAs. Unexpectedly, the two identical rRNA gene regions (13,893 bp) are arranged in a direct orientation (DR), rather than inverted. Comparing to the IR organization in Isoetes flaccida (Isoetaceae, Lycopodiopsida) plastome, a ca. 50-kb trnN-trnF inversion that spans one DR copy was found in the plastome of S. vardei, which might cause the orientation change. In addition, we find extremely rare short dispersed repeats (SDRs) in the plastomes of S. vardei and its closely related species S. indica.We suggest that the ca. 50-kb inversion resulted in the DR structure, and the reduction in SDRs plays a key role in maintaining the stability of plastomes with DR structure by avoiding potential secondary recombination. We further confirmed the presence of homologous recombination between DR regions, which are able to generate subgenomes and form diverse multimers. Our study deepens the understanding of Selaginella plastomes and provides new insights into the diverse plastome structures in land plants.
Journal: BMC genomics