Assistant Professor Mississippi State University MISSISSIPPI STATE, Mississippi, United States
Ling Li (Mississippi State University)| Seth O'Conner (Mississippi State University)
Plant mitochondrial genomes exhibit unique evolutionary patterns. They have a high rearrangement but low mutation rate, and a large size. Based on massive mitochondrial DNA transfers to the nucleus as well as the mitochondrial unique evolutionary traits, we propose a “Mitochondrial Fostering” theory where the organelle genome plays an integral role in the arrival and development of orphan genes (genes with no homologs in other lineages). Two approaches were used to test this theory: (1) bioinformatic analysis of nuclear mitochondrial DNA (Numts: mitochondrial originating DNA that migrated to the nucleus) at the genome level, and (2) bioinformatic analysis of particular orphan sequences present in both the mitochondrial genome and the nuclear genome of Arabidopsis thaliana. One study example is given about one orphan sequence that codes for two unique orphan genes: one in the mitochondrial genome and another one in the nuclear genome. DNA alignments show regions of this A. thaliana orphan sequence exist scattered throughout other land plant mitochondrial genomes. This is consistent with the high recombination rates of mitochondrial genomes in land plants. This may also enable the creation of novel coding sequences within the orphan loci, which can then be transferred to the nuclear genome and become exposed to new evolutionary pressures. Our study also reveals a high correlation between the amount of mitochondrial DNA transferred to the nuclear genome and the number of orphan genes in land plants. All the data suggests the mitochondrial genome may play a role in nuclear orphan gene evolution in land plants.
A model for orphan gene evolution through the mitochondrial genome. Novel sequences are created due to the high rearrangement rate in the mitochondrial genome, and then inserted into a nuclear chromosome. The transferred DNA may already contain gene coding information like KNIT (left side of model: Route 1) or may obtain an open reading frame via other genome mechanisms such as transposon transposition (right side: Route 2).