Exploring the DNA of Three Copal Trees to Understand Their Evolution

Jim Crocker
11th March, 2024

Exploring the DNA of Three Copal Trees to Understand Their Evolution

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers sequenced the chloroplast DNA of three Bursera tree species, enhancing genetic knowledge
  • The study found the largest DNA variations in a specific region, aiding in understanding tree evolution
  • Genetic markers identified may help in conservation and studying the trees' medicinal properties
Bursera trees, known for their aromatic resins and cultural significance, are a staple of tropical dry forests in the Neotropics. Despite their importance, there is a notable lack of genetic information available for these species, which hampers our understanding of their ecological and evolutionary roles. Researchers at Northern Arizona University have made strides in addressing this gap by sequencing and analyzing the complete chloroplast genomes of three Bursera species: B. cuneata, B. palmeri, and B. bipinnata[1]. Chloroplasts are the photosynthesis-performing components of plant cells, and their genomes are independent from the plant's main DNA. Studying chloroplast DNA (CpDNA) provides insights into plant genetics and evolution. The chloroplast genomes of these three species were found to be similar in size, ranging from 159,824 to 159,872 base pairs, and contained 135 genes, including genes for proteins, transfer RNAs, and ribosomal RNAs. The researchers discovered that the largest sequence variations occurred in the large single-copy (LSC) region of the Cp genome, while the inverted repeat regions (IRa and IRb) were more conserved. The LSC region is one of the three main sections of the chloroplast genome, the others being the small single-copy (SSC) region and the inverted repeats. The IR regions are sequences of DNA that are identical but in opposite orientations and play a role in the stability and function of the genome. Simple sequence repeats (SSRs), which are short, repeating sequences of DNA that can be used as genetic markers, were also identified within the genomes, ranging between 589 and 591 repeats. These markers are useful for studying genetic diversity and can aid in conservation efforts. Phylogenetic analysis, which is a method used to infer evolutionary relationships among species, was performed using the newly obtained CpDNA data. It confirmed that the genus Commiphora is closely related to Bursera, with the SSC and LSC regions providing the clearest resolution of the relationship between B. bipinnata and B. palmeri. This study builds on previous research[2] that reported the complete chloroplast genome sequences of other species within the Burseraceae family, including Commiphora gileadensis and C. foliacea. The current research contributes to a growing body of genomic data for the family and offers a clearer picture of the genetic relationships within it. The findings from this study also have practical implications for the annotation and analysis of Cp genomes. Previously, CPGAVAS2, an upgraded web server, was developed to address challenges in plastome annotation, including the accurate identification of small exons and repeat elements[3]. The data from this study could be used with tools like CPGAVAS2 to further refine the annotation of Cp genomes in Bursera and other related species. Moreover, the research on Bursera cuneata's anti-inflammatory compounds[4] highlights the medicinal potential of the genus. The chloroplast genomes sequenced in the current study may provide additional genetic clues that could be used to identify genes involved in the biosynthesis of such bioactive compounds. In conclusion, the work by researchers at Northern Arizona University has provided valuable Cp genome sequences for three Bursera species, enhancing our understanding of their genetic makeup and evolutionary history. This research not only supports the conservation and taxonomic classification of these ecologically significant trees but also lays the groundwork for future studies into their genetic diversity and potential medicinal properties.

GeneticsPlant ScienceEvolution


Main Study

1) Complete chloroplast genomes of three copal trees (Bursera: Bullockia): comparative analysis and phylogenetic relationships.

Published 9th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) First complete chloroplast genomics and comparative phylogenetic analysis of Commiphora gileadensis and C. foliacea: Myrrh producing trees.


3) CPGAVAS2, an integrated plastome sequence annotator and analyzer.


4) Anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic activity of triterpenoids isolated from Bursera cuneata (Schldl.) Engl.


Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙