Indexed on: 25 Mar '10Published on: 25 Mar '10Published in: Genome biology and evolution
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations underlie a variety of human genetic disorders and are associated with the aging process. mtDNA polymorphisms are widely used in a variety of evolutionary applications. Although mtDNA mutation spectra are known to differ between distantly related model organisms, the extent to which mtDNA mutation processes vary between more closely related species and within species remains enigmatic. We analyzed mtDNA divergence in two sets of 250-generation Caenorhabditis briggsae mutation-accumulation (MA) lines, each derived from a different natural isolate progenitor: strain HK104 from Okayama, Japan, and strain PB800 from Ohio, United States. Both sets of C. briggsae MA lines accumulated numerous large heteroplasmic mtDNA deletions, whereas only one similar event was observed in a previous analysis of Caenorhabditis elegans MA line mtDNA. Homopolymer length change mutations were frequent in both sets of C. briggsae MA lines and occurred in both intergenic and protein-coding gene regions. The spectrum of C. briggsae mtDNA base substitution mutations differed from the spectrum previously observed in C. elegans. In C. briggsae, the HK104 MA lines experienced many different base substitution types, whereas the PB800 lines displayed only C:G --> T:A transitions, although the difference was not significant. Over half of the mtDNA base substitutions detected in the C. briggsae MA lines were in a heteroplasmic state, whereas all those previously characterized in C. elegans MA line mtDNA were fixed changes, indicating a narrower mtDNA bottleneck in C. elegans as compared with C. briggsae. Our results show that C. briggsae mtDNA is highly susceptible to large deletions and that the mitochondrial mutation process varies between Caenorhabditis nematode species.