Numerous transposed sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I-II in aphids of the genus Sitobion (Hemiptera: Aphididae)

Paul Sunnucks, Dinah F. Hales

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Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products corresponding to 803 bp of the cytochrome oxidase subunits I and II region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA COI- II) were deduced to consist of multiple haplotypes in three Sitobion species. We investigated the molecular basis of these observations. PCR products were cloned, and six clones from one individual per species were sequenced. In each individual, one sequence was found commonly, but also two or three divergent sequences were seen. The divergent sequences were shown to be nonmitochondrial by sequencing from purified mtDNA and Southern blotting experiments. All seven nonmitochondrial clones sequenced to completion were unique. Nonmitochondrial sequences have a high proportion of unique sites, and very few characters are shared between nonmitochondrial clones to the exclusion of mtDNA. From these data, we infer that fragments of mtDNA have been transposed separately (probably into aphid chromosomes), at a frequency only known to be equalled in humans. The transposition phenomenon appears to occur infrequently or not at all in closely related genera and other aphids investigated. Patterns of nucleotide substitution in mtDNA inferred over a parsimony tree are very different from those in transposed sequences. Compared with mtDNA, nonmitochondrial sequences have less codon position bias, more even exchanges between A, G, C and T, and a higher proportion of nonsynonymous replacements. Although these data are consistent with the transposed sequences being under less constraint than mtDNA, changes in the nonmitochondrial sequences are not random: there remains significant position bias, and probable excesses of synonymous replacements and of conservative inferred amino acid replacements. We conclude that a proportion of the inferred change in the nonmitochondrial sequences occurred before transposition. We believe that Sitobion aphids (and other species exhibiting mtDNA transposition) may be important for studying the molecular evolution of mtDNA and pseudogenes. However, our data highlight the need to establish the true evolutionary relationships between sequences in comparative investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-524
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • aphid
  • cytochrome oxidase
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • nuclear
  • phylogeny
  • Sitobion
  • transposed sequence
  • transposition

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