Molluscan mitochondrial genomes break the rules.

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Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences


washington; seattle; psjh; isb; genomics


The first animal mitochondrial genomes to be sequenced were of several vertebrates and model organisms, and the consistency of genomic features found has led to a 'textbook description'. However, a more broad phylogenetic sampling of complete animal mitochondrial genomes has found many cases where these features do not exist, and the phylum Mollusca is especially replete with these exceptions. The characterization of full mollusc mitogenomes required considerable effort involving challenging molecular biology, but has created an enormous catalogue of surprising deviations from that textbook description, including wide variation in size, radical genome rearrangements, gene duplications and losses, the introduction of novel genes, and a complex system of inheritance dubbed 'doubly uniparental inheritance'. Here, we review the extraordinary variation in architecture, molecular functioning and intergenerational transmission of molluscan mitochondrial genomes. Such features represent a great potential for the discovery of biological history, processes and functions that are novel for animal mitochondrial genomes. This provides a model system for studying the evolution and the manifold roles that mitochondria play in organismal physiology, and many ways that the study of mitochondrial genomes are useful for phylogeny and population biology. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'Molluscan genomics: broad insights and future directions for a neglected phylum'.


Institute for Systems Biology