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Mol Biol Evol. 2008 Oct;25(10):2167-80. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msn159. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Rapidly evolving mitochondrial genome and directional selection in mitochondrial genes in the parasitic wasp nasonia (hymenoptera: pteromalidae).

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Department of Biology, University of Rochester, USA.


We sequenced the nearly complete mtDNA of 3 species of parasitic wasps, Nasonia vitripennis (2 strains), Nasonia giraulti, and Nasonia longicornis, including all 13 protein-coding genes and the 2 rRNAs, and found unusual patterns of mitochondrial evolution. The Nasonia mtDNA has a unique gene order compared with other insect mtDNAs due to multiple rearrangements. The mtDNAs of these wasps also show nucleotide substitution rates over 30 times faster than nuclear protein-coding genes, indicating among the highest substitution rates found in animal mitochondria (normally <10 times faster). A McDonald and Kreitman test shows that the between-species frequency of fixed replacement sites relative to silent sites is significantly higher compared with within-species polymorphisms in 2 mitochondrial genes of Nasonia, atp6 and atp8, indicating directional selection. Consistent with this interpretation, the Ka/Ks (nonsynonymous/synonymous substitution rates) ratios are higher between species than within species. In contrast, cox1 shows a signature of purifying selection for amino acid sequence conservation, although rates of amino acid substitutions are still higher than for comparable insects. The mitochondrial-encoded polypeptides atp6 and atp8 both occur in F0F1ATP synthase of the electron transport chain. Because malfunction in this fundamental protein severely affects fitness, we suggest that the accelerated accumulation of replacements is due to beneficial mutations necessary to compensate mild-deleterious mutations fixed by random genetic drift or Wolbachia sweeps in the fast evolving mitochondria of Nasonia. We further propose that relatively high rates of amino acid substitution in some mitochondrial genes can be driven by a "Compensation-Draft Feedback"; increased fixation of mildly deleterious mutations results in selection for compensatory mutations, which lead to fixation of additional deleterious mutations in nonrecombining mitochondrial genomes, thus accelerating the process of amino acid substitutions.

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