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J Mol Evol. 2009 Jan;68(1):66-79. doi: 10.1007/s00239-008-9188-z. Epub 2009 Jan 3.

Internal repetition and intraindividual variation in the rDNA ITS1 of the anopheles punctulatus group (Diptera: Culicidae): multiple units and rates of turnover.

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  • 1Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW, 2522, Australia.


The rapid divergence of repetitive sequences makes them desirable markers for phylogenetic studies of closely related groups, provided that a high level of sequence homogeneity has been maintained within species. Intraspecific polymorphisms are found in an increasing number of studies now, and this highlights the need to determine why these occur. In this study we examined intraindividual variation present in the first ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS1) from a group of cryptic mosquito species. Individuals of the Anopheles punctulatus group contained multiple ITS1 length variants that ranged from 1.2 to 8.0 kb. Nucleotide and copy number variation for several homologous internal repeats is common, yet the intraspecific sequence divergence of cloned PCR isolates is comparable to that of other mosquito species (~0.2-1.5%). Most of the length variation is comprised of a 5'-ITS1 repeat that was identified as a duplication of a conserved ITS2 region. Secondary structure conservation for this repeat is pronounced and several repeat types that are highly homogenized have formed. Significant interspecific divergence indicates a high rate of evolutionary change for this spacer. A maximum likelihood tree constructed here was congruent with previous phylogenetic hypotheses and suggests that concerted evolution is also accompanied by interpopulation divergence. The lack of interindividual differences and the presence of homogenized internal repeats suggest that a high rate of turnover has reduced the overall level of variation. However, the intraindividual variation also appears to be maintained by the absence of a single turnover rate and the complex dynamics of ongoing recombination within the spacer.

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