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Genes Genet Syst. 2000 Dec;75(6):313-8.

The exceptional mitochondrial DNA system of the mussel family Mytilidae.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Crete and Institute of Marine Biology of Crete Iraklio, Crete, Greece.


Species of the families Mytilidae (sea mussels) and Unionidae (fresh water mussels) contain two types of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the F that behaves as the standard animal mtDNA and the M that is transmitted through the sperm and establishes itself only in the male gonad. The two molecules have, therefore, separate transmission routes, one through the female and the other through the male lineage. The system has been named doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI). Another important feature of sea mussels is that the sex ratio among offspring of a pair mating is determined by the female parent only. The mechanism of DUI remains unknown. One hypothesis that is consistent with all observations is that the standard maternal inheritance was modified in mussels via the evolution of a suppressor gene that is expressed during oogenesis and has two alleles, the inactive and the active allele. In the presence of the active allele in the mother's genotype the egg is supplied with a substance that interferes and the normal mechanism of elimination of sperm mitochondria. This will explain why half of mussels have the father's mtDNA and half do not, but would not explain why presence/absence of paternal mtDNA is linked with the male and female gender, respectively. To provide an explanation for this linkage, one would have to assume that there is a causal relationship between retention of paternal mtDNA and sex determination.

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