A highly variable mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) locus is used to assess the population structure of mitochondrial genomes in the gynodioecious plant Silene vulgaris at two spatial scales. Thirteen mtDNA haplotypes were identified within 250 individuals from 18 populations in a 20-km diameter region of western Virginia. The population structure of these mtDNA haplotypes was estimated as θST = 0.574 (± 0.066 SE) and, surprisingly, genetic differentiation among populations was negatively correlated with geographic distance (Mantel r = −0.246, P < 0.002). Additionally, mtDNA haplotypes were spatially clumped at the scale of meters within one population. Gender in S. vulgaris is determined by an interaction between autosomal male fertility restorers and cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) factors, and seed fitness is affected by an interaction between gender and population sex ratio; thus, selection acting on gender could influence the distribution of mtDNA RFLP haplotypes. The sex ratio (females:hermaphrodites) varied among mtDNA haplotypes across the entire metapopulation, possibly because the haplotypes were in linkage disequilibrium with different CMS factors. The gender associated with some of the most common haplotypes varied among populations, suggesting that there is also population structure in male fertility restorer genes. In comparison with reports of mtDNA variation from other published studies, we found that S. vulgaris exhibits a large number of mtDNA haplotypes relative to that observed in other species.
Corresponding Editor: M. Morgan