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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. May 28, 1996; 93(11): 5619–5623.

Two mitochondrial group I introns in a metazoan, the sea anemone Metridium senile: one intron contains genes for subunits 1 and 3 of NADH dehydrogenase.


Mitochondrial genes for cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5 (ND5) of the sea anemone Metridium senile (phylum Cnidaria) each contain a group I intron. This is in contrast to the reported absence of introns in all other metazoan mtDNAs so far examined. The ND5 intron is unusual in that it ends with A and contains two genes (ND1 and ND3) encoding additional subunits of NADH dehydrogenase. Correctly excised ND5 introns are not circularized but are precisely cleaved near their 3' ends and polyadenylylated to provide bicistronic transcripts of ND1 and ND3. COI introns, which encode a putative homing endonuclease, circularize, but in a way that retains the entire genome-encoded intron sequence (other group I introns are circularized with loss of a short segment of the intron 5' end). Introns were detected in the COI and ND5 genes of other sea anemones, but not in the COI and ND5 genes of other cnidarians. This suggests that the sea anemone mitochondrial introns may have been acquired relatively recently.

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