Background: The evolution of animal mitochondrial (mt) genomes has resulted in a highly conserved structure: a single compact circular chromosome approximately 14 to 20 kb long. Within the last two decades exceptions to this conserved structure, such as the division of the genome into multiple chromosomes, have been reported in a diverse set of metazoans. We report on the two circle multipartite mt genome of a newly described cyst nematode, Globodera ellingtonae. Results: The G. ellingtonae mt genome was found to be comprised of two circles, each larger than any other multipartite circular mt chromosome yet reported, and both were larger than the single mt circle of the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The genetic content of the genome was disproportionately divided between the two circles, although they shared a ~6.5 kb non-coding region. The 17.8 kb circle (mtDNA-I) contained ten protein-coding genes and two tRNA genes, whereas the 14.4 kb circle (mtDNA-II) contained two protein-coding genes, 20 tRNA genes and both rRNA genes. Perhaps correlated with this division of genetic content, the copy number of mtDNA-II was more than four-fold that of mtDNA-I in individual nematodes. The difference in copy number increased between second-stage and fourth-stage juveniles. Conclusions: The segregation of gene types to different mt circles in G. ellingtonae could provide benefit by localizing gene functional types to independent transcriptional units. This is the first report of both two-circle and several-circle mt genomes within a single genus. The differential copy number associated with this multipartite mt organization could provide a model system for deconstructing mechanisms regulating mtDNA copy number both in somatic cells and during germline development.
- Mitochondrial genomics
- Multipartite mitochondrial genome