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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(9):1661-7. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt122.

Palindromic genes in the linear mitochondrial genome of the nonphotosynthetic green alga Polytomella magna.

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Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Organelle DNA is no stranger to palindromic repeats. But never has a mitochondrial or plastid genome been described in which every coding region is part of a distinct palindromic unit. While sequencing the mitochondrial DNA of the nonphotosynthetic green alga Polytomella magna, we uncovered precisely this type of genic arrangement. The P. magna mitochondrial genome is linear and made up entirely of palindromes, each containing 1-7 unique coding regions. Consequently, every gene in the genome is duplicated and in an inverted orientation relative to its partner. And when these palindromic genes are folded into putative stem-loops, their predicted translational start sites are often positioned in the apex of the loop. Gel electrophoresis results support the linear, 28-kb monomeric conformation of the P. magna mitochondrial genome. Analyses of other Polytomella taxa suggest that palindromic mitochondrial genes were present in the ancestor of the Polytomella lineage and lost or retained to various degrees in extant species. The possible origins and consequences of this bizarre genomic architecture are discussed.


Chlamydomonas; inverted repeat; mitochondrial DNA; palindrome; telomere

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