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Mol Biol Evol. 2019 Feb 20. pii: msz036. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msz036. [Epub ahead of print]

Evolutionary rate correlation between mitochondrial-encoded and mitochondria-associated nuclear-encoded proteins in insects.

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State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology & Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Crop Pathogens and Insects, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, USA.


The mitochondrion is a pivotal organelle for energy production, and includes components encoded by both the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. Functional and evolutionary interactions are expected between the nuclear and mitochondrial encoded components. The topic is of broad interest in biology, with implications to genetics, evolution, and medicine. Here we compare the evolutionary rates of mitochondrial proteins and ribosomal RNAs to rates of mitochondria-associated nuclear-encoded proteins, across the major orders of holometabolous insects. There are significant evolutionary rate correlations (ERCs) between mitochondrial-encoded and mitochondria-associated nuclear-encoded proteins, which is likely driven by different rates of mitochondrial sequence evolution and correlated changes in the interacting nuclear-encoded proteins. The pattern holds after correction for phylogenetic relationships and considering protein conservation levels. Correlations are stronger for both nuclear-encoded OXPHOS proteins that are in contact with mitochondrial OXPHOS proteins and for nuclear-encoded mitochondrial ribosomal amino acids directly contacting the mitochondrial rRNAs. We find that ERC between mitochondrial- and nuclear-encoded proteins is a strong predictor of nuclear-encoded proteins known to interact with mitochondria, and ERC shows promise for identifying new candidate proteins with mitochondrial function. Twenty-three additional candidate nuclear-encoded proteins warrant further study for mitochondrial function based on this approach, including proteins in the minichromosome maintenance helicase (MCM) complex.


coevolution; compensatory evolution; insect; mitochondrion; substitution rates


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