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Next generation sequencing and comparative analyses of Xenopus mitogenomes

Rhiannon E Lloyd13*, Peter G Foster2, Matthew Guille1 and D Timothy J Littlewood2

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, PO1 2DT, UK

2 Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK

3 Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:496  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-496

Published: 19 September 2012



Mitochondrial genomes comprise a small but critical component of the total DNA in eukaryotic organisms. They encode several key proteins for the cell’s major energy producing apparatus, the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Additonally, their nucleotide and amino acid sequences are of great utility as markers for systematics, molecular ecology and forensics. Their characterization through nucleotide sequencing is a fundamental starting point in mitogenomics. Methods to amplify complete mitochondrial genomes rapidly and efficiently from microgram quantities of tissue of single individuals are, however, not always available. Here we validate two approaches, which combine long-PCR with Roche 454 pyrosequencing technology, to obtain two complete mitochondrial genomes from individual amphibian species.


We obtained two new xenopus frogs (Xenopus borealis and X. victorianus) complete mitochondrial genome sequences by means of long-PCR followed by 454 of individual genomes (approach 1) or of multiple pooled genomes (approach 2), the mean depth of coverage per nucleotide was 9823 and 186, respectively. We also characterised and compared the new mitogenomes against their sister taxa; X. laevis and Silurana tropicalis, two of the most intensely studied amphibians. Our results demonstrate how our approaches can be used to obtain complete amphibian mitogenomes with depths of coverage that far surpass traditional primer-walking strategies, at either the same cost or less. Our results also demonstrate: that the size, gene content and order are the same among xenopus mitogenomes and that S. tropicalis form a separate clade to the other xenopus, among which X. laevis and X. victorianus were most closely related. Nucleotide and amino acid diversity was found to vary across the xenopus mitogenomes, with the greatest diversity observed in the Complex 1 gene nad4l and the least diversity observed in Complex 4 genes (cox1-3). All protein-coding genes were shown to be under strong negative (purifying selection), with genes under the strongest pressure (Complex 4) also being the most highly expressed, highlighting their potentially crucial functions in the mitochondrial respiratory chain.


Next generation sequencing of long-PCR amplicons using single taxon or multi-taxon approaches enabled two new species of Xenopus mtDNA to be fully characterized. We anticipate our complete mitochondrial genome amplification methods to be applicable to other amphibians, helpful for identifying the most appropriate markers for differentiating species, populations and resolving phylogenies, a pressing need since amphibians are undergoing drastic global decline. Our mtDNAs also provide templates for conserved primer design and the assembly of RNA and DNA reads following high throughput “omic” techniques such as RNA- and ChIP-seq. These could help us better understand how processes such mitochondrial replication and gene expression influence xenopus growth and development, as well as how they evolved and are regulated.

Xenopus; Mitochondrial DNA; Next generation sequencing; Phylogeny; Mitogenomics; Comparative analyses; Variation; Selection and molecular markers