Open Access Research article

Accelerated evolution of the mitochondrial genome in an alloplasmic line of durum wheat

Andrzej K Noyszewski1, Farhad Ghavami2, Loai M Alnemer3, Ali Soltani1, Yong Q Gu4, Naxin Huo4, Steven Meinhardt5, Penny MA Kianian1 and Shahryar F Kianian6*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108, USA

2 Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

3 Computer Information Systems Department, The University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan

4 USDA-ARS, Western Regional Research Center, Albany, CA 94710, USA

5 Department of Plant Pathology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108, USA

6 Cereal Disease Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Minneapolis, MN 55108, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:67  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-67

Published: 25 January 2014



Wheat is an excellent plant species for nuclear mitochondrial interaction studies due to availability of large collection of alloplasmic lines. These lines exhibit different vegetative and physiological properties than their parents. To investigate the level of sequence changes introduced into the mitochondrial genome under the alloplasmic condition, three mitochondrial genomes of the Triticum-Aegilops species were sequenced: 1) durum alloplasmic line with the Ae. longissima cytoplasm that carries the T. turgidum nucleus designated as (lo) durum, 2) the cytoplasmic donor line, and 3) the nuclear donor line.


The mitochondrial genome of the T. turgidum was 451,678 bp in length with high structural and nucleotide identity to the previously characterized T. aestivum genome. The assembled mitochondrial genome of the (lo) durum and the Ae. longissima were 431,959 bp and 399,005 bp in size, respectively. The high sequence coverage for all three genomes allowed analysis of heteroplasmy within each genome. The mitochondrial genome structure in the alloplasmic line was genetically distant from both maternal and paternal genomes. The alloplasmic durum and the Ae. longissima carry the same versions of atp6, nad6, rps19-p, cob and cox2 exon 2 which are different from the T. turgidum parent. Evidence of paternal leakage was also observed by analyzing nad9 and orf359 among all three lines. Nucleotide search identified a number of open reading frames, of which 27 were specific to the (lo) durum line.


Several heteroplasmic regions were observed within genes and intergenic regions of the mitochondrial genomes of all three lines. The number of rearrangements and nucleotide changes in the mitochondrial genome of the alloplasmic line that have occurred in less than half a century was significant considering the high sequence conservation between the T. turgidum and the T. aestivum that diverged from each other 10,000 years ago. We showed that the changes in genes were not limited to paternal leakage but were sufficiently significant to suggest that other mechanisms, such as recombination and mutation, were responsible. The newly formed ORFs, differences in gene sequences and copy numbers, heteroplasmy, and substoichiometric changes show the potential of the alloplasmic condition to accelerate evolution towards forming new mitochondrial genomes.

Aegilops longissima; Triticum turgidum; Heteroplasmy; Paternal leakage; atp6; Next generation sequencing; Cytoplasmic male sterility; Alloplasmic line