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Aneta Słomka, Dorota Siwińska, Elżbieta Wolny, Kristin Kellner and Elżbieta Kuta

Influence of a Heavy-Metal-Polluted Environment on Viola tricolor Genome Size and Chromosome Number

Intraspecific changes in genome size and chromosome number lead to divergence and species evolution. Heavy metals disturb the cell cycle and cause mutations. Areas contaminated by heavy metals (metalliferous sites) are places where microevolutionary processes accelerate: very often only a few generations are enough for a new genotype to arise. This study, which continues our long-term research on Viola tricolor (Violaceae), a species occurring on both metalliferous (Zn, Pb, Cd, Cu) and non-metalliferous soils in Western and Central Europe, is aimed at determining the influence of environments polluted with heavy metals on genome size and karyological variability. The genome size of V. tricolor ranged from 3.801 to 4.203 pg, but the differences between metallicolous and non-metallicolous populations were not statistically significant. Altered chromosome numbers were significantly more frequent in material from the polluted sites than from the non-polluted sites (43% versus 28%). Besides the standard chromosome number (2n = 26), aneuploid cells with lower (2n = 18-25) or higher (2n = 27, 28) chromosome numbers were found in plants from both types of site, but polyploid (2n = 42) cells were observed only in plants from the metalliferous locality. The lack of correlation between chromosome variability in root meristematic cells and genome size estimated from peduncle cells can be attributed to elimination of somatic mutations in generative meristem, producing chromosome-stable non-meristematic tissues in the peduncle.

Open access

Aneta Słomka, Piotr Kawalec, Kristin Kellner, Monika Jędrzejczyk-Korycińska, Adam Rostański and Elżbieta Kuta

Was Reduced Pollen Viability in Viola tricolor L. the Result of Heavy Metal Pollution or Rather the Tests Applied?

We used different tests to assess the effect of high soil concentrations of heavy metals on pollen viability in plants from metallicolous (MET) and nonmetallicolous (NONMET) populations. The frequency of viable pollen depended on the test applied: MET plants showed no significant reduction of pollen viability by acetocarmine, Alexander, MTT and X-Gal dye testing, but a drastic reduction of pollen viability in MET flowers (MET 56% vs 72% NONMET) by the FDA test. There was no correlation between pollen viability estimated in histochemical tests and pollen germination in vitro or in vivo. We discuss the terminology used to describe pollen viability as determined by histochemical tests.

Open access

Wojciech Paul, Elżbieta Cieślak, Michał Ronikier, Grzegorz Migdałek, Aneta Słomka and Justyna Żabicka


Viola uliginosa (bog violet) is a declining species throughout its range due to – mostly anthropogenic – drying out of the wet habitats it occupies. Using AFLP markers, we aimed to estimate the genetic diversity in Polish populations, that may give an insight into the situation of plant populations facing rapid loss of natural habitats.

Bog violet from several dispersed Polish populations is generally characterized by very low genetic diversity (H T = 0.048), even lower than several other endangered violets; therefore, we suggest that it should preserve at least EN rank in the red lists/red data books. The mean gene diversity within all populations (H S) was much lower than gene diversity (G ST) between populations (0.020 versus 0.583, respectively) which supports the prevalence of clonal propagation of the species (mainly by stolons) but may also point to some significance of autogamy in cleisto- and chasmogamous flowers. A high F ST value and the Mantel test for all populations revealed significant isolation by distance. Geographically neighboring pairs of populations formed genetic clusters supported by all (in the case of two closest populations) or most statistical analyses applied. Special attention should be paid to the locus classicus of the species in Rząska, consisting of a small number of individuals, forming a genetically distinct group, revealing very low gene diversity (H j = 0.009) and the longest genetic distance to the remaining populations. Our results can contribute to planning future protection measures for the species at this and other locations. Genetic structure of the studied populations suggests local affinities of populations but does not generally support hypothesized recent continuity of V. uliginosa range along the river valleys of southern Poland; this view may, however, be altered with widening of the scope of studied populations and chosen molecular markers.

Open access

Aneta Słomka, Elżbieta Kuta, Agnieszka Płażek, Franciszek Dubert, Iwona Żur, Ewa Dubas, Przemysław Kopeć and Grzegorz Żurek

Miscanthus ×giganteus Greef et Deu. (Poaceae), a hybrid of Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus native to Japan, is an ornamental and a highly lignocellulosic bioenergy crop, cultivated in the European Union as an alternative source of energy. This grass reproduces exclusively vegetatively, by rhizomes or via expensive in vitro micropropagation. The present study was aimed at finding the barriers that prevent sexual seed production, based on detailed embryological analyses of the whole generative cycle, including microsporogenesis, pollen viability, megasporogenesis, female gametophyte development, and embryo and endosperm formation. Sterility of M. ×giganteus results from abnormal development of both male and female gametophytes. Disturbed microsporogenesis (laggard chromosomes, univalents, micronuclei) was further highlighted by low pollen staining. The frequency of stainable pollen ranged from 13.9% to 55.3% depending on the pollen staining test, and no pollen germination was observed either in vitro or in planta. The wide range of pollen sizes (25.5-47.6 μm) clearly indicated unbalanced pollen grain cytology, which evidently affected pollen germination. Only 9.7% of the ovules developed normally. No zygotes nor embryos were found in any analyzed ovules. Sexual reproduction of M. ×giganteus is severely hampered by its allotriploid (2n=3x=57) nature. Hybrid sterility, a strong postzygotic barrier, prevents sexual reproduction and, therefore, seed formation in this taxon.