RNA editing in gymnosperms and its impact on the evolution of the mitochondrial coxI gene

Meng-Zhu Lu, Alfred E. Szmidt, and Xiao-Ru Wang

Plant Molecular Biology (1998) 37: 225-234

For reprint send email to: Alfred E. Szmidt


Sequence analysis of the mitochondrial coxI gene in eight gymnosperm species revealed a high rate of non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions with a strong (98%) predominance of C-T substitutions. Further analysis of the corresponding coxI cDNA sequences showed that all the non-synonymous C-T changes in the coxI genomic DNA sequences were eliminated by RNA editing resulting in nearly identical mRNA (amino acid) sequences among the species. Pronounced variation in the number and location of edited sites was found among species. Most species had a relatively large number of edited sites (from 25 to 34). However, no RNA editing of the coxI sequence was found in Gingko biloba or Larix sibirica. The sequence composition of the investigated coxI fragment suggests that the coxI gene in G. biloba and L. sibirica originated from edited mitochondrial coxI transcripts by reverse transcription followed by insertion into the nuclear genome or back into the mitochondrial genome. Our results also demonstrate that where there are a large number of edited sites, RNA editing can accelerate the divergence of sequences among species.
Keywords: gymnosperms, mitochondria, molecular evolution, nucleotide substitution, RNA editing

by Alfred E. Szmidt