Complete mitogenome sequences of four flatfishes (Pleuronectiformes) reveal a novel gene arrangement of L-strand coding genes
© Shi et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 13 May 2013
Accepted: 12 August 2013
Published: 20 August 2013
Few mitochondrial gene rearrangements are found in vertebrates and large-scale changes in these genomes occur even less frequently. It is difficult, therefore, to propose a mechanism to account for observed changes in mitogenome structure. Mitochondrial gene rearrangements are usually explained by the recombination model or tandem duplication and random loss model.
In this study, the complete mitochondrial genomes of four flatfishes, Crossorhombus azureus (blue flounder), Grammatobothus krempfi, Pleuronichthys cornutus, and Platichthys stellatus were determined. A striking finding is that eight genes in the C. azureus mitogenome are located in a novel position, differing from that of available vertebrate mitogenomes. Specifically, the ND6 and seven tRNA genes (the Q, A, C, Y, S 1 , E, P genes) encoded by the L-strand have been translocated to a position between tRNA-T and tRNA-F though the original order of the genes is maintained.
These special features are used to suggest a mechanism for C. azureus mitogenome rearrangement. First, a dimeric molecule was formed by two monomers linked head-to-tail, then one of the two sets of promoters lost function and the genes controlled by the disabled promoters became pseudogenes, non-coding sequences, and even were lost from the genome. This study provides a new gene-rearrangement model that accounts for the events of gene-rearrangement in a vertebrate mitogenome.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of vertebrate is a circular DNA molecule of 15–20 kb normally containing 13 protein-coding genes, 22 tRNA genes, two rRNA genes, one origin of replication on the light-strand (OL), and a single control region (CR). The CR is essential for the initiation of transcription and for replication of the heavy strand . Most genes are encoded by the heavy (H-) strand; only the ND6 gene and eight tRNA genes are encoded by the light (L-) strand. Transcription of L- or H- strand occurs from the light-strand promoter (LSP) or heavy-strand promoter (HSP) [2, 3].
Currently, over 1700 complete mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequences from vertebrates are available, and although the gene order of most vertebrate mitogenomes is conserved, mtDNA gene rearrangements have been found in some groups [4–7]. Thus far, three models have been used to explain gene rearrangements in animal mtDNA. First, the recombination model, initially proposed for gene rearrangements in nuclear genomes, is characterized by breakage and rejoining of participating DNA strands . This model has been adopted to account for changes in mitochondrial gene order in frog, bird, mussels, and others [5, 9, 10]. Another commonly accepted hypothesis is the tandem duplication and random loss (TDRL) model, which posits that rearrangements of mitochondrial gene order have occurred via tandem duplications of some genes followed by random deletion of some of the duplications [11, 12]. This model is widely used to explain gene rearrangements in vertebrate mtDNA [4, 7, 13, 14]. Lavrov et al.  created a model of tandem duplication and non-random loss (TDNL) to explain the gene rearrangements in two millipede mtDNA genomes (Narceus annularus and Thyropygus sp.). According to this model, the mitogenome duplicates to form a dimer genome (two monomer-mitogenomes linked head-to-tail). The duplication is then followed by gene loss determined by transcriptional polarity rather than via random gene loss . Since then, this model has been used to explain the formation of only a few gene rearrangements all in invertebrate mitogenomes [16–18]. To date, no vertebrate mtDNA arrangements have been fit to the Lavrov et al.  model.
Here we describe the complete mitogenomes of four flatfishes, Crossorhombus azureus (blue flounder), Grammatobothus krempfi, Pleuronichthys cornutus, and Platichthys stellatus, all of which belong to the superfamily Pleuronectoidea. C. azureaus and G. krempfi are members of the Bothidae family, while the other two fishes are in the Pleuronectidae family. The gene order of the G. krempfi, P. cornutus and P. stellatus mitogenomes is the same as that of a typical vertebrate. However, we have discovered a novel gene rearrangement in C. azureus mtDNA. From this mitogenome, a new model of gene rearrangement in the C. azureus lineage is inferred.
Sampling, DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing
Specimens of C. azureus (C. azu) were collected from Zhuhai of Guangdong province, G. krempfi (G. kre) from Xiangshan of Zhejiang province, P. cornutus (P. cor) and P. stellatus (P. ste) from Qingdao of Shandong province. A portion of the epaxial musculature was excised from fresh specimen and immediately stored at −70°C. Total genomic DNA was extracted using the SQ Tissue DNA Kit (OMEGA) following the manufacturer’s protocol. Based on alignments and comparisons of complete mitochondrial sequences of flatfishes, dozens of primer pairs were designed for amplification of the mtDNA genomes (Additional file 1: Table S1). More than 30 bp of overlapping fragments between tandem regions were used to ensure correct assembly and integrity of the complete sequence.
PCR was performed in a 25 μl reaction volume containing 2.0 mM MgCl2, 0.4 mM of each dNTP, 0.5 μM of each primer, 1.0 U of Taq polymerase (Takara, China), 2.5 μl of 10× Taq buffer, and approximately 50 ng of DNA template. PCR cycling conditions included an initial denaturation at 95°C for 3 min, 30–35 cycles at 94°C for 45 s, an annealing temperature of 45–55°C for 45 s, and elongation at 68–72°C for 1.5-5 min. The PCR reaction was completed by a final extension at 72°C for 5 min. The PCR products were purified with the Takara Agarose Gel DNA Purification Kit (Takara, China) and used directly as templates for cycle sequencing reactions. Sequence-specific primers were further designed and used as walking primers for both strands of each fragment with an ABI 3730 DNA sequencer (Applied Biosystems, USA). The sequences of the mtDNAs of C. azureus, G. krempfi, P. cornutus and P. stellatus have been submitted to GenBank under the accession numbers JQ639068, JQ639069, JQ639071, NC_010966, respectively.
Sequenced fragments were assembled to create complete mitochondrial genomes using CodonCode Aligner v3 and BioEdit v7 . During the processing of large fragments and walking sequences, regular manual examinations were made to ensure reliable assembly of the genome sequence. Annotation and boundary determination of protein-coding and ribosomal RNA genes were performed using NCBI-BLAST (http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi). Transfer RNA genes and their secondary structures were identified using tRNAscan-SE 1.21 , setting the cut-off values to 1 when necessary. The gene maps of each of the four flatfish mitogenomes were generated using CGView . Mitogenomes of eight other Pleuronectoidea fishes were retrieved from GenBank (Additional file 2: Table S2), including one Scophthalmidae specimen, Scophthalmus maxima (S. max); one Paralichthyidae fish, Paralichthys olivaceus (P. oli); and the other six Pleuronectidae fishes: Kareius bicoloratus, Verasper variegatus (V. var), Verasper moseri (V. mos), Hippoglossus hippoglossus (H. hip), Hippoglossus stenolepis (H. ste), and Reinhardtius hippoglossoides (R. hip).
Results and discussion
Novel gene order in the C. azureusmitogenome
CR variation in the C. azureusmitogenome
Location and sequence variations of OL region in the C. azureusmitogenome
Gene rearrangement mechanism for the C. azureusmitogenome
Generally in vertebrate mitogenomes, small-scale gene rearrangements are rare and genomic-scale changes occur even less frequently , especially in teleostean fishes [28, 33–35]. It is difficult, therefore, to propose a mechanism to account for the observed changes in genome structure. Gene rearrangement events are usually explained by the recombination or TDRL models . The genes of the C. azureus mitogenome are extensively rearranged with clustering of eight of nine genes on the L-strand in the same polarity in an unchanged relative order. These special features provide a foundation on which to suggest a mechanism for gene-rearrangement in the C. azureus mitogenome. Though the gene rearrangement seen in C. azureus can be explained by recombination, TDRL or other models, using these models to explain observed C. azureus rearrangements is not as parsimonious as the model proposed below. For instance, to apply the recombination model to the C. azureus mitogenome, more than four recombination events would be required and each recombination event would need to translocate certain L-strand coding genes to the specific position at L-strand coding gene cluster. Since it is known that among the teleost fishes even single gene rearrangements caused by recombination are rare, this model seems an unlikely fit to the data. Similarly, using the tRNA mis-priming model  would require five or more specific tRNA mis-priming events. Lastly, apply tandem duplication “random loss” (TDRL) to the C. azureus mitogenome, the “loss” events, from the duplicated genome to the C. azureus type, shared very peculiar characteristic: only the L-strand coding gene including ND6 and tRNA of P, E, S, Y, C, A and Q was translocated and grouped together. Instead, the rearrangement of the C. azureus genome including two groups of genes with different transcriptional polarities is better explained by the following model.
The tRNA-N gene is located in WANCY region adjoining OL and Seligmann and Krishnan  speculated that it not only was transcribed into tRNA-N, but also could form OL-like structures that may have functioned during mitochondrial replication of the L-strand. Therefore, although the tRNA-N2 should not be transcribed in the process shown in Figure 5C, it was still preserved because it functioned as OL or assisted in OL functioning during L-strand replication. In the following processes, due to degradation of tRNA-L(UUR) 1 (the termination of L-strands transcription 1), transcription would be terminated at tRNA-L(UUR) 2 instead of at L(UUR) 1 . Hence, the gene tRNA-N 2 could be re-transcribed (Figure 5D). Finally, the tRNA-N 2 gene was preserved while N 1 was lost. Lastly, the gene tRNA-D was translocated from between COI and COII genes to a site between tRNA-T and CR. This event can be explained by tRNA mis-priming model or recombination event. Such translocations had been found in vertebrate and are relatively common in metazoan mitochondrial genome rearrangements [4, 10, 40]. Translocation of tRNA-D could have occurred either before or after the duplication and loss events postulated above. After the above rearrangements, a hybrid monomer-mitogenome (gene block1 and block2) would have been formed, in which genes with identical transcriptional polarity were placed into two clusters separated by two noncoding regions (Figure 5E).
Details and support for the model
The inferred “dimer-mitogenome” intermediate of the C. azureus mtDNA (Figure 5B) could be formed by two entire mitogenomes or from two longer mtDNA fragments that include all L-coding genes (namely from tRNA-Q to CR, Figure 5A). While the duplication of a very large fragment is unusual in vertebrate mitogenomes, the dimeric mitogenome molecule has been observed in many animals [17, 41, 42] including almost all mammals . Therefore, a duplication of the complete genome is more likely than the duplication of a very large fragment.
The inferred intermediate rearrangement for the C. azureus mitogenome is similar to that of the TDNL . The crucial step in both models is that one set of light and heavy strand promoters lost function. The two non-coding regions (NC-1, NC-2) present in the C. azureus mitogenome provide evidence for this intermediate step. When comparing the CR structure with those of other fishes, we found that the 687 bp NC-2 region includes possible TAS-1 and CSB-2 sequences, but not the LSP or HSP (after CSB; Figure 3). This feature provides evidence that one set of transcriptional promoters in the CR lost function (Figure 5C). To date, no conserved sequences of the LSP and the HSP have been found in teleostean fishes. However, the logical position of the promoters in the C. azureus mitogenome would be in NC-1 for the following reasons. First, most researches [1, 37, 38] agrees that the HSP and LSP must be located very close to tRNA-F and the 5’ end of the 12S rRNA gene. NC-1 is the closest region to those genes. Second, NC-1 is located where the two gene clusters are separated by their transcription polarities, allowing transcription to originate in both directions (Figure 5D). According to previous studies, the LSP and HSP must be located in a non-coding region not far from 3’ end of CSB (close to the origin of replication for the H-strand: OH) because the RNA primer from LSP to OH is necessary for mitochondrial replication [1, 44]. Again, NC-1 is the closest, sufficiently long non-coding region located downstream of CSB (Figure 1, Additional file 3: Table S3a). In summary, the features of NC-1 support the interpretation that “the other CR retains the promoters” in our model.
In summary, we determined the complete mitochondrial genomes of four flatfishes, Crossorhombus azureus (blue flounder), Grammatobothus krempfi, Pleuronichthys cornutus, and Platichthys stellatus. The genes of the C. azureus mitogenome are extensively rearranged with eight of nine genes on the L-strand in the same polarity and their relative order unchanged. A mechanism similar to the TDNL model is proposed to explain the origin of these special features. The model also explains the gene-rearrangements in which genes are clustered in the same polarity (L- or H-strand coding) with their relative order unchanged.
Sequences were deposited in the NCBI [JQ639068, JQ639069, JQ639071, NC_010966].
This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (30870283, 31071890 and 41206134). We thank Prof. Elizabeth A. De Stasio for English editorial assistance and Dr. Xiangyun Wu for his suggestions and comments.
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