Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Karyotypic diversification in Mytilus mussels (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) inferred from chromosomal mapping of rRNA and histone gene clusters

Concepción Pérez-García12, Paloma Morán1 and Juan J Pasantes1*

Author Affiliations

1 Dpto. Bioquímica, Xenética e Inmunoloxía, Universidade de Vigo, E-36310 Vigo, Spain

2 Ifremer, Department of Biogeochemistry and Ecotoxicology, Laboratory of Ecotoxicology, Rue de l’Ile d’Yeu, BP 21105, F-44311 Nantes Cedex 03, France

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-84

Published: 15 July 2014



Mussels of the genus Mytilus present morphologically similar karyotypes that are presumably conserved. The absence of chromosome painting probes in bivalves makes difficult verifying this hypothesis. In this context, we comparatively mapped ribosomal RNA and histone gene families on the chromosomes of Mytilus edulis, M. galloprovincialis, M. trossulus and M. californianus by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH).


Major rRNA, core and linker histone gene clusters mapped to different chromosome pairs in the four taxa. In contrast, minor rRNA gene clusters showed a different behavior. In all Mytilus two of the 5S rDNA clusters mapped to the same chromosome pair and one of them showed overlapping signals with those corresponding to one of the histone H1 gene clusters. The overlapping signals on mitotic chromosomes became a pattern of alternate 5S rRNA and linker histone gene signals on extended chromatin fibers. Additionally, M. trossulus showed minor and major rDNA clusters on the same chromosome pair.


The results obtained suggest that at least some of the chromosomes bearing these sequences are orthologous and that chromosomal mapping of rRNA and histone gene clusters could be a good tool to help deciphering some of the many unsolved questions in the systematic classification of Mytilidae.

Mytilus; Chromosome; Fluorescent in situ hybridization; Histone genes, Ribosomal RNA genes; Fibre-FISH