Cytonuclear conflict in interpopulation hybrids: the role of RNA polymerase in mtDNA transcription and replication

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Organismal fitness requires functional integration of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. Structural and regulatory elements coevolve within lineages and several studies have found that interpopulation hybridization disrupts mitonuclear interactions. Because mitochondrial RNA polymerase (mtRPOL) plays key roles in both mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication and transcription, the interaction between mtRPOL and coevolved regulatory sites in the mtDNA may be central to mitonuclear integration. Here, we generate interpopulation hybrids between divergent populations of the copepod Tigriopus californicus to obtain lines having different combinations of mtRPOL and mtDNA. Lines were scored for mtDNA copy number and ATP6 (mtDNA) gene expression. We find that there is a genotype-dependent negative association between mitochondrial transcriptional response and mtDNA copy number. We argue that an observed increase in mtDNA copy number and reduced mtDNA transcription in hybrids reflects the regulatory role of mtRPOL; depending on the mitonuclear genotype, hybridization may disrupt the normal balance between transcription and replication of the mitochondrial genome.

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