Rapid Proliferation of Repetitive Palindromic Elements in mtDNA of the Endemic Baikalian Sponge Lubomirskia baicalensis
Molecular biology and evolution
Animal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a remarkably compact molecule largely because of the scarcity of noncoding "selfish" DNA. Recently, however, we found that mitochondrial genomes of several phylogenetically diverse species of demosponges contain small repetitive palindromic sequences, interspersed within intergenic regions and fused in protein and ribosomal RNA genes. Here, I report and analyze the proliferation of such elements in the mitochondrial genome of the endemic sponge of Lake Baikal
... onge of Lake Baikal Lubomirskia baicalensis. Because Baikal sponges are closely related to the circumglobally distributed freshwater sponge Ephydatia muelleri with which they shared a common ancestor approximately 3-10 Ma, both the rate of single nucleotide substitutions and the rate of palindromic repeat insertions can be calculated in this system. I found the rate of nucleotide substitutions in mtDNA of freshwater sponges to be extremely low (0.5-1.6 Â 10 À9 per site per year), more similar to that in plants than bilaterian animals. By contrast, the per/nucleotide rate of insertions of repetitive elements is at least four times higher. This rapid rate of proliferation combined with the broad phylogenetic distribution of hairpin elements can make them a defining force in the evolution of mitochondrial genomes of demosponges.