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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Feb 3;95(3):1331-5.

mtDNA recombination in a natural population.

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  • 1Department of Botany, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 1C6.


Variation in mtDNA has been used extensively to draw inferences in phylogenetics and population biology. In the majority of eukaryotes investigated, transmission of mtDNA is uniparental and clonal, with genotypic diversity arising from mutation alone. In other eukaryotes, the transmission of mtDNA is biparental or primarily uniparental with the possibility of "leakage" from the minority parent. In these cases, heteroplasmy carries the potential for recombination between mtDNAs of different descent. In fungi, such mtDNA recombination has long been documented but only in laboratory experiments and only under conditions in which heteroplasmy is ensured. Despite this experimental evidence, mtDNA recombination has not been to our knowledge documented in a natural population. Because evidence from natural populations is prerequisite to understanding the evolutionary impact of mtDNA recombination, we investigated the possibility of mtDNA recombination in an organism with the demonstrated potential for heteroplasmy in laboratory matings. Using nucleotide sequence data, we report here that the genotypic structure of mtDNA in a natural population of the basidiomycete fungus Armillaria gallica is inconsistent with purely clonal mtDNA evolution and is fully consistent with mtDNA recombination.

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