Pervasive mitochondrial sequence heteroplasmy in natural populations of wild carrot, Daucus carota spp. carota L


Exceptions to the generally accepted rules that plant mitochondrial genomes are strictly maternally inherited and that within-individual sequence diversity in those genomes, i.e., heteroplasmy, should be minimal are becoming increasingly apparent especially with regard to sequence-level heteroplasmy. These findings raise questions about the potential significance of such heteroplasmy for plant mitochondrial genome evolution. Still studies quantifying the amount and consequences of sequence heteroplasmy in natural populations are rare. In this study, we report pervasive sequence heteroplasmy in natural populations of wild carrot, a close relative of the cultivated crop. In order to assay directly for this heteroplasmy, we implemented a quantitative PCR assay that can detect and quantify intraindividual SNP variation in two mitochondrial genes (Cox1 and Atp9). We found heteroplasmy in > 60% of all wild carrot populations surveyed and in > 30% of the 140 component individuals that were genotyped. Heteroplasmy ranged from a very small proportion of the total genotype (e.g., 0.995:0.005) to near even mixtures (e.g., 0.590:0.410) in some individuals. These results have important implications for the role of intra-genomic recombination in the generation of plant mitochondrial genome genotypic novelty. The consequences of such recombination are evident in the results of this study through analysis of the degree of linkage disequilibrium (LD) between the SNP sites at the two genes studied.

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