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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Mitochondrial gene transfer in pieces: fission of the ribosomal protein gene rpl2 and partial or complete gene transfer to the nucleus.

Mitochondrial genes are usually conserved in size in angiosperms. A notable exception is the rpl2 gene, which is considerably shorter in the eudicot Arabidopsis than in the monocot rice. Here, we show that a severely truncated mitochondrial rpl2 gene (termed 5' rpl2) was created by the formation of a premature stop codon early in eudicot evolution. This 5' rpl2 gene was subsequently lost many times from the mitochondrial DNAs of 179 core eudicots surveyed by Southern hybridization. The sequence corresponding to the 3' end of rice rpl2 (termed 3' rpl2) has been lost much more pervasively among the mitochondrial DNAs of core eudicots than has 5' rpl2. Furthermore, where still present in these mitochondrial genomes, 3' rpl2 always appears to be a pseudogene, and there is no evidence that 3' rpl2 was ever a functional mitochondrial gene. An intact and expressed 3' rpl2 gene was discovered in the nucleus of five diverse eudicots (tomato, cotton, Arabidopsis, soybean, and Medicago). In the first three of these species, 5' rpl2 is still present in the mitochondrion, unlike the two legumes, where both parts of rpl2 are present in the nucleus as separate genes. The full-length rpl2 gene has been transferred intact to the nucleus in maize. We propose that the 3' end of rpl2 was functionally transferred to the nucleus early in eudicot evolution, and that this event then permitted the nonsense mutation that gave rise to the mitochondrial 5' rpl2 gene. Once 5' rpl2 was established as a stand-alone mitochondrial gene, it was then lost, and was probably transferred to the nucleus many times. This complex history of gene fission and gene transfer has created four distinct types of rpl2 structures or compartmentalizations in angiosperms: (1) intact rpl2 gene in the mitochondrion, (2) intact gene in the nucleus, (3) split gene, 5' in the mitochondrion and 3' in the nucleus, and (4) split gene, both parts in the nucleus.[1]


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