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First comparative insight into the architecture of COI mitochondrial minicircle molecules of dicyemids reveals marked inter-species variation

  • SARAH R. CATALANO (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), IAN D. WHITTINGTON (a5), STEPHEN C. DONNELLAN (a3) (a4), TERRY BERTOZZI (a1) (a3) (a4) and BRONWYN M. GILLANDERS (a1) (a2) (a6)...

Dicyemids, poorly known parasites of benthic cephalopods, are one of the few phyla in which mitochondrial (mt) genome architecture departs from the typical ~16 kb circular metazoan genome. In addition to a putative circular genome, a series of mt minicircles that each comprises the mt encoded units (I–III) of the cytochrome c oxidase complex have been reported. Whether the structure of the mt minicircles is a consistent feature among dicyemid species is unknown. Here we analyse the complete cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) minicircle molecule, containing the COI gene and an associated non-coding region (NCR), for ten dicyemid species, allowing for first time comparisons between species of minicircle architecture, NCR function and inferences of minicircle replication. Divergence in COI nucleotide sequences between dicyemid species was high (average net divergence = 31·6%) while within species diversity was lower (average net divergence = 0·2%). The NCR and putative 5′ section of the COI gene were highly divergent between dicyemid species (average net nucleotide divergence of putative 5′ COI section = 61·1%). No tRNA genes were found in the NCR, although palindrome sequences with the potential to form stem-loop structures were identified in some species, which may play a role in transcription or other biological processes.

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* Corresponding author. North Terrace Campus, Evolutionary Biology Unit, University of Adelaide, Darling Building, DX 650 418, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. E-mail:
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