Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Afrobatrachian mitochondrial genomes: genome reorganization, gene rearrangement mechanisms, and evolutionary trends of duplicated and rearranged genes

Atsushi Kurabayashi* and Masayuki Sumida

Author Affiliations

Institute for Amphibian Biology, Graduate School of Science, Hiroshima University, 739-8526 Hiroshima, Japan

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:633  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-633

Published: 21 September 2013



Mitochondrial genomic (mitogenomic) reorganizations are rarely found in closely-related animals, yet drastic reorganizations have been found in the Ranoides frogs. The phylogenetic relationships of the three major ranoid taxa (Natatanura, Microhylidae, and Afrobatrachia) have been problematic, and mitogenomic information for afrobatrachians has not been available. Several molecular models for mitochondrial (mt) gene rearrangements have been proposed, but observational evidence has been insufficient to evaluate them. Furthermore, evolutionary trends in rearranged mt genes have not been well understood. To gain molecular and phylogenetic insights into these issues, we analyzed the mt genomes of four afrobatrachian species (Breviceps adspersus, Hemisus marmoratus, Hyperolius marmoratus, and Trichobatrachus robustus) and performed molecular phylogenetic analyses. Furthermore we searched for two evolutionary patterns expected in the rearranged mt genes of ranoids.


Extensively reorganized mt genomes having many duplicated and rearranged genes were found in three of the four afrobatrachians analyzed. In fact, Breviceps has the largest known mt genome among vertebrates. Although the kinds of duplicated and rearranged genes differed among these species, a remarkable gene rearrangement pattern of non-tandemly copied genes situated within tandemly-copied regions was commonly found. Furthermore, the existence of concerted evolution was observed between non-neighboring copies of triplicated 12S and 16S ribosomal RNA regions.


Phylogenetic analyses based on mitogenomic data support a close relationship between Afrobatrachia and Microhylidae, with their estimated divergence 100 million years ago consistent with present-day endemism of afrobatrachians on the African continent. The afrobatrachian mt data supported the first tandem and second non-tandem duplication model for mt gene rearrangements and the recombination-based model for concerted evolution of duplicated mt regions. We also showed that specific nucleotide substitution and compositional patterns expected in duplicated and rearranged mt genes did not occur, suggesting no disadvantage in employing these genes for phylogenetic inference.

Mitochondrial genome; Gene rearrangement; Concerted evolution; Substitution rate; Selection; Afrobatrachia; Ranoides