Gnetophytes, comprising the genera Ephedra, Gnetum and Welwitschia, are an understudied, enigmatic lineage of gymnosperms with a controversial phylogenetic relationship to other seed plants. Wang et al. examined the organization of ribosomal DNA (rDNA) across representative species.
Gnetophytes are distinct from other gymnosperms and angiosperms as they display surprisingly large variability in rDNA organization and rDNA copy and locus numbers between genera, with no relationship between copy numbers and genome sizes apparent. Concerted evolution of 5S rDNA units seems to have led to the amplification of 5S pseudogenes in both G. montanum and E. altissima. Evolutionary patterns of rDNA show both gymnosperm and angiosperm features underlining the diversity of the group.