Evolutionary Trends in the Mitochondrial Genome of Archaeplastida: How Does the GC Bias Affect the Transition from Water to Land?

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Among the most intriguing mysteries in the evolutionary biology of photosynthetic organisms are the genesis and consequences of the dramatic increase in the mitochondrial and nuclear genome sizes, together with the concomitant evolution of the three genetic compartments, particularly during the transition from water to land. To clarify the evolutionary trends in the mitochondrial genome of Archaeplastida, we analyzed the sequences from 37 complete genomes. Therefore, we utilized mitochondrial, plastidial and nuclear ribosomal DNA molecular markers on 100 species of Streptophyta for each subunit. Hierarchical models of sequence evolution were fitted to test the heterogeneity in the base composition. The best resulting phylogenies were used for reconstructing the ancestral Guanine-Cytosine (GC) content and equilibrium GC frequency (GC*) using non-homogeneous and non-stationary models fitted with a maximum likelihood approach. The mitochondrial genome length was strongly related to repetitive sequences across Archaeplastida evolution; however, the length seemed not to be linked to the other studied variables, as different lineages showed diverse evolutionary patterns. In contrast, Streptophyta exhibited a powerful positive relationship between the GC content, non-coding DNA, and repetitive sequences, while the evolution of Chlorophyta reflected a strong positive linear relationship between the genome length and the number of genes.
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