Molecular phylogenetics and evolution. 2014-02-01; 71.36-40.

Massive difference in synonymous substitution rates among mitochondrial, plastid, and nuclear genes of Phaeocystis algae

Smith DR, Arrigo KR, Alderkamp AC, Allen AE

PMID: 24216019


We are just beginning to understand how mutation rates differ among mitochondrial, plastid, and nuclear genomes. In most seed plants the mitochondrial mutation rate is estimated to be lower than those of the plastid and nucleus, whereas in the red alga Porphyra the opposite is true, and in certain green algae all three genomes appear to have similar rates of mutation. Relative rate statistics of organelle vs nuclear genes, however, are lacking for lineages that acquired their plastids through secondary endosymbiosis, but recent organelle DNA analyses suggest that they may differ drastically from what is observed in lineages with primary plastids, such as green plants and red algae. Here, by measuring synonymous nucleotide substitutions, we approximate the relative mutation rates within the haptophyte genus Phaeocystis, which has a red-algal-derived, secondary plastid. Synonymous-site divergence data indicate that for Phaeocystis antarctica and P. globosa the mitochondrial mutation rate is 10 and 3 times that of the plastid and nucleus, respectively. This differs drastically from relative rate estimates for primary-plastid-bearing lineages and presents a much more dynamic view of organelle vs nuclear mutation rates across the eukaryotic domain.