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J Mol Evol. 1988 Dec-1989 Feb;28(1-2):87-97.

Plant mitochondrial DNA evolves rapidly in structure, but slowly in sequence.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


We examined the tempo and mode of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evolution in six species of crucifers from two genera, Brassica and Raphanus. The six mtDNAs have undergone numerous internal rearrangements and therefore differ dramatically with respect to the sizes of their subgenomic circular chromosomes. Between 3 and 14 inversions must be postulated to account for the structural differences found between any two species. In contrast, these mtDNAs are extremely similar in primary sequence, differing at only 1-8 out of every 1000 bp. The point mutation rate in these plant mtDNAs is roughly 4 times slower than in land plant chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) and 100 times slower than in animal mtDNA. Conversely, the rate of rearrangements is extraordinarily faster in plant mtDNA than in cpDNA and animal mtDNA.

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