Effects of different levels of inbreeding on progeny fitness in Plantago coronopus

H.P. Koelewijn

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Inbreeding depression (delta) is a major selective force favoring outcrossing in flowering plants. Many phenotypic and genetic models of the evolution of selfing conclude that complete outcrossing should evolve whenever inbreeding depression is greater than one-half, otherwise selfing should evolve. Recent theoretical work, however has challenged this view and emphasized (1) the importance of variation in inbreeding depression among individuals within a population; and (2) the nature of gene action between deleterious mutations at different loci (epistasis) as important determinants for the evolution of plant mating systems. The focus of this study was to examine the maintenance of inbreeding depression and the relationship between inbreeding level and inbreeding depression at both the population and the individual level in one population of the partially self-fertilizing plant Plantago coronopus (L.). Maternal plants, randomly selected from an area of about 50 m(2) in a natural population, were used to establish lines with expected inbreeding coefficients (f) of 0, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, and 0.875. inbreeding depression was estimated both in the greenhouse and at the site of origin of the maternal plants by comparing growth, survival, flowering, and seed production of the progeny with different inbreeding coefficients. No significant inbreeding depression for these fitness traits was detected in the greenhouse after 16 weeks. This was in strong contrast to the held, where the traits all displayed significant inbreeding depression and declined with increased inbreeding. The results were consistent with the view that mutation to mildly deleterious alleles is the primary cause of inbreeding depression. At the family level, significantly different maternal line responses (maternal parent X inbreeding level interaction) provide a mechanism for the invasion of a selfing variant into the population through any maternal line exhibiting purging of its genetic load. At the population level, evidence for synergistic epistasis was detected for the probability of flowering, but not for total seed production. At the family level, however, a significant interaction between inbreeding level and maternal families for both traits was observed, indicating that epistasis could play a role in the expression of inbreeding depression among maternal lines. [KEYWORDS: Deleterious mutations; inbreeding depression; Plantago coronopus; self-fertilization; serial inbreeding; synergistic epistasis Mutation-selection balance; self-fertilization; outcrossing rates; sexual reproduction; mimulus-guttatus; male-sterility; depression; evolution; populations; system]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)692-702
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1998




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