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J Mol Evol. 1997 Dec;45(6):631-9.

Characterization of mitochondrial small-subunit ribosomal RNAs from holoparasitic plants.

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Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale 62901-6509, USA.


Mitochondrial small-subunit (19S) rDNA sequences were obtained from 10 angiosperms to further characterize sequence divergence levels and structural variation in this molecule. These sequences were derived from seven holoparasitic (nonphotosynthetic) angiosperms as well as three photosynthetic plants. 19S rRNA is composed of a conservative core region (ca. 1450 nucleotides) as well as two variable regions (V1 and V7). In pairwise comparisons of photosynthetic angiosperms to Glycine, the core 19S rDNA sequences differed by less than 1.4%, thus supporting the observation that variation in mitochondrial rDNA is 3-4 times lower than seen in protein coding and rDNA genes of other subcellular organelles. Sequences representing four distinct lineages of nonasterid holoparasites showed significantly increased numbers of substitutions in their core 19S rDNA sequences (2.3-7.6%), thus paralleling previous findings that showed accelerated rates in nuclear (18S) and plastid (16S) rDNA from the same plants. Relative rate tests confirmed the accelerated nucleotide substitution rates in the holoparasites whereas rates in nonparasitic plants were not significantly increased. Among comparisons of both parasitic and nonparasitic plants, transversions outnumbered transitions, in many cases more than two to one. The core 19S rRNA is conserved in sequence and structure among all nonparasitic angiosperms whereas 19S rRNA from members of holoparasitic Balanophoraceae have unique extensions to the V5 and V6 variable domains. Substitution and insertion/deletion mutations characterized the V1 and V7 regions of the nonasterid holoparasites. The V7 sequence of one holoparasite (Scybalium) contained repeat motifs. The cause of substitution rate increases in the holoparasites does not appear to be a result of RNA editing, hence the underlying molecular mechanism remains to be fully documented.

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