Mitochondria of Cedrus atlantica and allied species: A new chapter in the horizontal gene transfer history.


Teresa Maria Rosaria Regina


Dipartimento di Biologia, Ecologia e Scienze della Terra (DiBEST), Università della Calabria, via Ponte P. Bucci, 87036, Arcavacata di Rende, Cosenza, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


The extraordinary incidence of Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) mostly in mitochondrial genomes of flowering plants is well known. Here, we report another episode of HGT affecting a large mitochondrial gene region in the evergreen conifer Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica). Mitochondria of this Pinaceae species possess an rps3 gene that harbours two introns and shares the same genomic context with a downstream overlapping rpl16 gene, like in the major groups of gymnosperms and angiosperms analyzed so far. Interestingly, C. atlantica contains additional copies of the rps3 and rpl16 sequences that are more closely related to angiosperm counterparts than to those from gymnosperms, as also confirmed by phylogenetic analyses. This suggests that a lateral transfer from a flowering plant donor is the most likely mechanism for the origin of the Atlas cedar extra sequences. Quantitative PCR and reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR analyses demonstrate, respectively, mitochondrial location and lack of expression for the rps3 and rpl16 additional sequences in C. atlantica. Furthermore, our study provides evidence that a similar HGT event takes place in two other Cedrus species, which occurr in Cyprus and North Africa. Only the West Himalayan C. deodara lacks the transferred genes. The potential donor and the molecular mechanism underlying this lateral DNA transfer remain still unclear.


Cedrus atlantica,Horizontal gene transfer,Plant mitochondrial evolution,Ribosomal protein genes,