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Mitochondrial genomes and Doubly Uniparental Inheritance: new insights from Musculista senhousia sex-linked mitochondrial DNAs (Bivalvia Mytilidae)

Marco Passamonti*, Andrea Ricci, Liliana Milani and Fabrizio Ghiselli

Author Affiliations

Department of Biologia Evoluzionistica Sperimentale, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:442  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-442

Published: 6 September 2011



Doubly Uniparental Inheritance (DUI) is a fascinating exception to matrilinear inheritance of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Species with DUI are characterized by two distinct mtDNAs that are inherited either through females (F-mtDNA) or through males (M-mtDNA). DUI sex-linked mitochondrial genomes share several unusual features, such as additional protein coding genes and unusual gene duplications/structures, which have been related to the functionality of DUI. Recently, new evidence for DUI was found in the mytilid bivalve Musculista senhousia. This paper describes the complete sex-linked mitochondrial genomes of this species.


Our analysis highlights that both M and F mtDNAs share roughly the same gene content and order, but with some remarkable differences. The Musculista sex-linked mtDNAs have differently organized putative control regions (CR), which include repeats and palindromic motifs, thought to provide sites for DNA-binding proteins involved in the transcriptional machinery. Moreover, in male mtDNA, two cox2 genes were found, one (M-cox2b) 123bp longer.


The complete mtDNA genome characterization of DUI bivalves is the first step to unravel the complex genetic signals allowing Doubly Uniparental Inheritance, and the evolutionary implications of such an unusual transmission route in mitochondrial genome evolution in Bivalvia. The observed redundancy of the palindromic motifs in Musculista M-mtDNA may have a role on the process by which sperm mtDNA becomes dominant or exclusive of the male germline of DUI species. Moreover, the duplicated M-COX2b gene may have a different, still unknown, function related to DUI, in accordance to what has been already proposed for other DUI species in which a similar cox2 extension has been hypothesized to be a tag for male mitochondria.