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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Jul;18(7):1168-75.

Direct evidence for homologous recombination in mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) mitochondrial DNA.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Crete, Crete, Greece.


The assumption that animal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) does not undergo homologous recombination is based on indirect evidence, yet it has had an important influence on our understanding of mtDNA repair and mutation accumulation (and thus mitochondrial disease and aging) and on biohistorical inferences made from population data. Recently, several studies have suggested recombination in primate mtDNA on the basis of patterns of frequency distribution and linkage associations of mtDNA mutations in human populations, but others have failed to produce similar evidence. Here, we provide direct evidence for homologous mtDNA recombination in mussels, where heteroplasmy is the rule in males. Our results indicate a high rate of mtDNA recombination. Coupled with the observation that mammalian mitochondria contain the enzymes needed for the catalysis of homologous recombination, these findings suggest that animal mtDNA molecules may recombine regularly and that the extent to which this generates new haplotypes may depend only on the frequency of biparental inheritance of the mitochondrial genome. This generalization must, however, await evidence from animal species with typical maternal mtDNA inheritance.

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