A Distinct Mitochondrial Genome with DUI-Like Inheritance in the Ocean Quahog Arctica islandica

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Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is strictly maternally inherited in metazoans. The major exception to this rule has been found in many bivalve species which allow the presence of different sex-linked mtDNA molecules. This mechanism, named doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI), is characterized by the presence of two mtDNAs: The female mtDNA is found in somatic tissue and female gonads, whereas the male mtDNA is usually found in male gonads and sperm. In this study we highlight the existence of two divergent mitochondrial haplotypes with a low genetic difference around 6–8% in Arctica islandica, a long-lived clam belonging to the Arcticidae, a sister group to the Veneridae in which DUI has been found. Phylogenetic analysis on cytochrome b and 16S sequences from somatic and gonadic tissues of clams belonging to different populations reveals the presence of the “divergent” type in male gonads only and the “normal” type in somatic tissues and female gonads. This peculiar segregation of divergent mtDNA types speaks for the occurrence of the DUI mechanism in A. islandica. This example also highlights the difficulties to assess the presence of such particular mitochondrial inheritance system and underlines the possible misinterpretations in phylogeographic and phylogenetic studies of bivalve species linked to the presence of two poorly differentiated mitochondrial genomes.

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