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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 21;101(51):17747-52. Epub 2004 Dec 14.

Massive horizontal transfer of mitochondrial genes from diverse land plant donors to the basal angiosperm Amborella.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700, USA.


Several plants are known to have acquired a single mitochondrial gene by horizontal gene transfer (HGT), but whether these or any other plants have acquired many foreign genes is entirely unclear. To address this question, we focused on Amborella trichopoda, because it was already known to possess one horizontally acquired gene and because it was found in preliminary analyses to contain several more. We comprehensively sequenced the mitochondrial protein gene set of Amborella, sequenced a variable number of mitochondrial genes from 28 other diverse land plants, and conducted phylogenetic analyses of these sequences plus those already available, including the five sequenced mitochondrial genomes of angiosperms. Results indicate that Amborella has acquired one or more copies of 20 of its 31 known mitochondrial protein genes from other land plants, for a total of 26 foreign genes, whereas no evidence for HGT was found in the five sequenced genomes. Most of the Amborella transfers are from other angiosperms (especially eudicots), whereas others are from nonangiosperms, including six striking cases of transfer from (at least three different) moss donors. Most of the transferred genes are intact, consistent with functionality and/or recency of transfer. Amborella mtDNA has sustained proportionately more HGT than any other eukaryotic, or perhaps even prokaryotic, genome yet examined.

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