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Variability of mitochondrial ORFans hints at possible differences in the system of doubly uniparental inheritance of mitochondria among families of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionida)

Guerra, D., Lopes-Lima, M., Froufe, E., Gan, H.M., Ondina, P., Amaro, R., Klunzinger, M.W., Callil, C., Prié, V., Bogan, A.E., Stewart, D.T. and Breton, S. (2019) Variability of mitochondrial ORFans hints at possible differences in the system of doubly uniparental inheritance of mitochondria among families of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionida). BMC Evolutionary Biology, 19 (1).

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Supernumerary ORFan genes (i.e., open reading frames without obvious homology to other genes) are present in the mitochondrial genomes of gonochoric freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionida) showing doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI) of mitochondria. DUI is a system in which distinct female-transmitted and male-transmitted mitotypes coexist in a single species. In families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae, the transition from dioecy to hermaphroditism and the loss of DUI appear to be linked, and this event seems to affect the integrity of the ORFan genes. These observations led to the hypothesis that the ORFans have a role in DUI and/or sex determination. Complete mitochondrial genome sequences are however scarce for most families of freshwater mussels, therefore hindering a clear localization of DUI in the various lineages and a comprehensive understanding of the influence of the ORFans on DUI and sexual systems. Therefore, we sequenced and characterized eleven new mitogenomes from poorly sampled freshwater mussel families to gather information on the evolution and variability of the ORFan genes and their protein products.

We obtained ten complete plus one almost complete mitogenome sequence from ten representative species (gonochoric and hermaphroditic) of families Margaritiferidae, Hyriidae, Mulleriidae, and Iridinidae. ORFan genes are present only in DUI species from Margaritiferidae and Hyriidae, while non-DUI species from Hyriidae, Iridinidae, and Mulleriidae lack them completely, independently of their sexual system. Comparisons among the proteins translated from the newly characterized ORFans and already known ones provide evidence of conserved structures, as well as family-specific features.

The ORFan proteins show a comparable organization of secondary structures among different families of freshwater mussels, which supports a conserved physiological role, but also have distinctive family-specific features. Given this latter observation and the fact that the ORFans can be either highly mutated or completely absent in species that secondarily lost DUI depending on their respective family, we hypothesize that some aspects of the connection among ORFans, sexual systems, and DUI may differ in the various lineages of unionids.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: BioMed Central
Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s).
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