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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Apr;69(4):2058-64.

Coupling of bacterial endosymbiont and host mitochondrial genomes in the hydrothermal vent clam Calyptogena magnifica.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA.


The hydrothermal vent clam Calyptogena magnifica (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae) depends for its nutrition on sulfur-oxidizing symbiotic bacteria housed in its gill tissues. This symbiont is transmitted vertically between generations via the clam's eggs; however, it remains uncertain whether occasionally symbionts are horizontally transmitted or acquired from the environment. If symbionts are transmitted strictly vertically through the egg cytoplasm, inheritance of symbiont lineages should behave as if coupled to the host's maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. This coupling would be obscured, however, with low rates of horizontal or environmental transfers, the equivalent of recombination between host lineages. Population genetic analyses of C. magnifica clams and associated symbionts from eastern Pacific hydrothermal vents clearly supported the hypothesis of strictly maternal cotransmission. Host mitochondrial and symbiont DNA sequences were coupled in a clam population that was polymorphic for both genetic markers. These markers were not similarly coupled with sequence variation at a nuclear gene locus, as expected for a randomly mating sexual population. Phylogenetic analysis of the two cytoplasmic genes also revealed no evidence for recombination. The tight association between vesicomyid clams and their vertically transmitted bacterial endosymbionts is phylogenetically very young (<50 million years) and may serve as a model for the origin and evolution of eukaryotic organelles.

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