Mitochondrial processes influence a broad spectrum of physiological and developmental events in higher eukaryotes, and their aberrant function can lead to several familiar disease phenotypes in mammals. In plants, mitochondrial genes directly influence pollen development and the occurrence of male sterility in natural plant populations. Likewise, in animal systems evidence accumulates to suggest important mitochondrial functions in spermatogenesis and reproduction. Here we present evidence for a convergent gene fusion involving a MutS-homologous gene functioning within the mitochondrion and designated Msh1. In only plants and soft corals, the MutS homologue has fused with a homing endonuclease sequence at the carboxy terminus of the protein. However, the endonuclease domains in the plants and the soft corals are members of different groups. In plants, Msh1 can influence mitochondrial genome organization and male sterility expression. Based on parallels in Msh1 gene structure shared by plants and corals, and their similarities in reproductive behavior, we postulate that this convergent gene fusion might have occurred in response to coincident adaptive pressures on reproduction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology