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Mol Genet Genomics. 2005 Jul;273(6):462-73. Epub 2005 May 13.

Identification and distribution of sequences having similarity to mitochondrial plasmids in mitochondrial genomes of filamentous fungi.

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Department of Biology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO 63103, USA.


Mitochondrial plasmids are autonomously replicating genetic elements commonly associated with fungal and plant species. Analysis of several plant and fungal mitochondrial genomes has revealed regions that show significant homology to mitochondrial plasmids, suggesting that plasmids have had a long-term association with their mitochondrial hosts. To assess the degree to which plasmids have invaded fungal mitochondrial genomes, BLAST search parameters were modified to identify plasmid sequences within highly AT-rich mtDNAs, and output data were parsed by E value, score, and sequence complexity. High scoring hits were evaluated for the presence of shared repetitive elements and location within plasmids and mtDNAs. Our searches revealed multiple sites of sequence similarity to four distinct plasmids in the wild-type mtDNA of Neurospora crassa, which collectively comprise more than 2% of the mitochondrial genome. Regions of plasmid similarity were not restricted to plasmids known to be associated with senescence, indicating that all mt plasmids can potentially integrate into mitochondrial DNA. Unexpectedly, plasmid-related sequences were found to be clustered in regions that have disproportionately low numbers of PstI palindromic sequences, suggesting that these repetitive elements may play a role in eliminating foreign DNA. A separate class of GC-rich palindromes was identified that appear to be mobile, as indicated by their occurrence within regions of plasmid homology. Sites of sequence similarity to mitochondrial plasmids were also detected in other filamentous fungi, but to a lesser degree. The tools developed here will be useful in assessing the contribution plasmids have made to mitochondrial function and in understanding the co-evolution of mitochondrial plasmids and their hosts.

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