Mitochondrial DNA and two perspectives on evolutionary genetics

Authors

  • ALLAN C. WILSON,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • REBECCA L. CANN,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, U426, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • STEVEN M. CARR,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Wildlife Genetics Laboraiory, Department of Wildlge and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas 77843, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • MATTHEW GEORGE,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Biochemistry, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • ULF B. GYLLENSTEN,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Clinical Genetics, Karolinska Hospital, Box 60500, S-104 01 Stockholm, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author
  • KATHLEEN M. HELM-BYCHOWSKI,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • RUSSELL G. HIGUCHI,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • STEPHEN R. PALUMBI,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • ELLEN M. PRAGER,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • RICHARD D. SAGE,

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    2. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • MARK STONEKING

    1. Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

This essay reviews comparative studies of animal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), with emphasis on findings made and ideas developed at Berkeley. It argues that such studies are bringing together two previous paths of progress in evolutionary biology. One path is that of those who worked far above the species level and were concerned with genealogical trees, time scales and the accumulation of new mutations on surviving molecular lineages. The other path is that of those who worked at and below the species level and were concerned mainly with population structure, migration and the frequencies of alleles that existed in an ancestral population. This fusion of paths is made possible by the high rate at which mutations accumulate on mtDNA lineages and by this molecule's uniparental and apparently haploid mode of inheritance. These properties make mtDNA a superb tool for building trees and time scales relating molecular lineages at and below the species level. In addition, owing to its mode of inheritance, mtDNA is more sensitive to bottlenecks in population size and to population subdivision than are nuclear genes. Joint comparative studies of both mtDNA and nuclear DNA variability give us valuable insights into how effective population size has varied through time. Such studies also give insight into the conditions under which mtDNA from one species can colonize another species.

Ancillary