Methodology significantly affects genome size estimates: quantitative evidence using bryophytes.
Flow cytometry (FCM) is commonly used to determine plant genome size estimates. Methodology has improved and changed during the past three decades, and researchers are encouraged to optimize protocols for their specific application. However, this step is typically omitted or undescribed in the current plant genome size literature, and this omission could have serious consequences for the genome size estimates obtained. Using four bryophyte species (Brachythecium velutinum, Fissidens taxifolius, Hedwigia ciliata, and Thuidium minutulum), three methodological approaches to the use of FCM in plant genome size estimation were tested. These included nine different buffers (Baranyis, de Laats, Galbraiths, General Purpose, LB01, MgSO(4), Ottos, Tris.MgCl(2), and Woody Plant), seven propidium iodide (PI) staining periods (5, 10, 15, 20, 45, 60, and 120 min), and six PI concentrations (10, 25, 50, 100, 150, and 200 microg ml(-1)). Buffer, staining period and staining concentration all had a statistically significant effect (P = 0.05) on the genome size estimates obtained for all four species. Buffer choice and PI concentration had the greatest effect, altering the 1C-values by as much as 8% and 14%, respectively. As well, the quality of the data varied with the different methodology used. Using the methodology determined to be the most accurate in this study (LB01 buffer and PI staining for 20 min at 150 microg ml(-1)), three new genome size estimates were obtained: B. velutinum: 0.46 pg, H. ciliata: 0.30 pg, and T. minutulum: 0.46 pg. While the peak quality of flow cytometry histograms is important, researchers must consider that changes in methodology can also affect the relative peak positions and therefore the genome size estimates obtained for plants using FCM.