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Background: Although homologous recombination affects the efficacy of selection in populations, the pattern of recombination rate evolution and its effects on genome evolution across plants are largely unknown. Recombination can reduce genome size by enabling the removal of LTR retrotransposons, alter codon usage by GC biased gene conversion, contribute to complex histories of gene duplication and loss through tandem duplication, and enhance purifying selection on genes. Therefore, variation in recombination rate across species may explain some of the variation in genomic architecture as well as rates of molecular evolution. We used phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate the evolution of global meiotic recombination rate in angiosperms and its effects on genome architecture and selection at the molecular level using genetic maps and genome sequences from thirty angiosperm species. Results: Recombination rate is negatively correlated with genome size, which is likely caused by the removal of LTR retrotransposons. After correcting recombination rates for euchromatin content, we also found an association between global recombination rate and average gene family size. This suggests a role for recombination in the preservation of duplicate genes or expansion of gene families. An analysis of the correlation between the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates (dN/dS) and recombination rate in 3748 genes indicates that higher recombination rates are associated with an increased efficacy of purifying selection, suggesting that global recombination rates affect variation in rates of molecular evolution across distantly related angiosperm species, not just between populations. We also identified shifts in dN/dS for recombination proteins that are associated with shifts in global recombination rate across our sample of angiosperms. Conclusions: Although our analyses only reveal correlations, not mechanisms, and do not include potential covariates of recombination rate, like effective population size, they suggest that global recombination rates may play an important role in shaping the macroevolutionary patterns of gene and genome evolution in plants. Interspecific recombination rate variation is tightly correlated with genome size as well as variation in overall LTR retrotransposon abundances. Recombination may shape gene-to-gene variation in dN/dS between species, which might impact the overall gene duplication and loss rates.
Tiley, G. P., & Burleigh, G. (2015). The relationship of recombination rate, genome structure, and patterns of molecular evolution across angiosperms. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-015-0473-3