Patterns of polymorphism and gene flow of gender-associated mitochondrial DNA lineages in European mussel populations


Prof. D. O. F. Skibinski Fax: +44 (0) 1792295447; E-mail:


Mussels of the genus Mytilus have two types of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The M type is transmitted paternally and the F type is transmitted maternally. RFLP analysis is used to assess phylogenetic relationships and nucleotide diversity and divergence for both mtDNA genomes in European populations of M. edulis and Atlantic and Mediterranean forms of M. galloprovincialis. Ten restriction endonucleases were used to assay variation in regions of the ND2 and COIII genes for a total of 77 individuals. F and M genomes show a concordant phylogenetic split into two major divergent clades, one specific to Mediterranean M. galloprovincialis and the other containing haplotypes from the three taxa. For both genomes, the geographical distribution of mtDNA variation suggests: (i) extensive levels of mtDNA introgression; (ii) asymmetric mtDNA gene flow from Atlantic to Mediterranean populations; and (iii) recurrent historical hybridization events. Significantly higher mtDNA diversity and divergence are observed for the M than F genome in all three Mytilus taxa, although the evolutionary forces responsible for these differences cannot be resolved. The extensive mtDNA gene flow between European Mytilus taxa conflicts with the restricted mtDNA introgression observed in American mussels, implying geographical variation in the nature of nuclear/mtDNA interactions regulating biparental inheritance.