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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Organization of the mitochondrial genomes of whiteflies, aphids, and psyllids (Hemiptera, Sternorrhyncha)

MyLo L Thao, Linda Baumann and Paul Baumann*

Author Affiliations

Microbiology Section, University of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, California, USA, 95616-8665

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2004, 4:25  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-25

Published: 3 August 2004



With some exceptions, mitochondria within the class Insecta have the same gene content, and generally, a similar gene order allowing the proposal of an ancestral gene order. The principal exceptions are several orders within the Hemipteroid assemblage including the order Thysanoptera, a sister group of the order Hemiptera. Within the Hemiptera, there are available a number of completely sequenced mitochondrial genomes that have a gene order similar to that of the proposed ancestor. None, however, are available from the suborder Sternorryncha that includes whiteflies, psyllids and aphids.


We have determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the mitochondrial genomes of six species of whiteflies, one psyllid and one aphid. Two species of whiteflies, one psyllid and one aphid have mitochondrial genomes with a gene order very similar to that of the proposed insect ancestor. The remaining four species of whiteflies had variations in the gene order. In all cases, there was the excision of a DNA fragment encoding for cytochrome oxidase subunit III(COIII)-tRNAgly-NADH dehydrogenase subunit 3(ND3)-tRNAala-tRNAarg-tRNAasn from the ancestral position between genes for ATP synthase subunit 6 and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5. Based on the position in which all or part of this fragment was inserted, the mitochondria could be subdivided into four different gene arrangement types. PCR amplification spanning from COIII to genes outside the inserted region and sequence determination of the resulting fragments, indicated that different whitefly species could be placed into one of these arrangement types. A phylogenetic analysis of 19 whitefly species based on genes for mitochondrial cytochrome b, NADH dehydrogenase subunit 1, and 16S ribosomal DNA as well as cospeciating endosymbiont 16S and 23S ribosomal DNA indicated a clustering of species that corresponded to the gene arrangement types.


In whiteflies, the region of the mitochondrial genome consisting of genes encoding for COIII-tRNAgly-ND3-tRNAala-tRNAarg-tRNAasn can be transposed from its ancestral position to four different locations on the mitochondrial genome. Related species within clusters established by phylogenetic analysis of host and endosymbiont genes have the same mitochondrial gene arrangement indicating a transposition in the ancestor of these clusters.