Animal study suggesting mtDNA is subject to natural selection

Problems with mitochondrial DNA as a marker in population, phylogeographic and phylogenetic studies: the effects of inherited symbionts
Gregory D. D. Hurst1,* and Francis M. Jiggins2

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been a marker of choice for reconstructing historical patterns of population demography, admixture, biogeography and speciation. However, it has recently been suggested that the pervasive nature of direct and indirect selection on this molecule renders any conclusion derived from it ambiguous. We review here the evidence for indirect selection on mtDNA in arthropods arising from linkage disequilibrium with maternally inherited symbionts. We note first that these symbionts are very common in arthropods and then review studies that reveal the extent to which they shape mtDNA evolution. mtDNA diversity patterns are compatible with neutral expectations for an uninfected population in only 2 of 19 cases. The remaining 17 studies revealed cases of symbiont-driven reduction in mtDNA diversity, symbiont-driven increases in diversity, symbiont-driven changes in mtDNA variation over space and symbiont-associated paraphyly of mtDNA.We therefore conclude that these elements often confound the inference of an organism’s evolutionary history from mtDNA data and that mtDNA on its own is an unsuitable marker for the study of recent historical events in arthropods. We also discuss the impact of these studies on the current programme of taxonomy based on DNA bar-coding.

I’ve now seen about half a dozen studies that have concluded mtDNA isn’t a neutral marker (animal and human). Makes the concept of ‘out of Africa’ a little shaky to say the least.


One response to “Animal study suggesting mtDNA is subject to natural selection



    Here, we report the analysis of 35 novel complete mtDNA sequences from India which refine the structure of Indian-specific varieties of haplogroup R. Detailed analysis of haplogroup R7, coupled with a survey of ~12,000 mtDNAs from caste and tribal groups over the entire Indian subcontinent, reveals that one of its more recently derived branches (R7a1), is particularly frequent among Munda-speaking tribal groups. This branch is nested within diverse R7 lineages found among Dravidian and Indo-European speakers of India. We have inferred from this that a subset of Munda-speaking groups have acquired R7 relatively recently. Furthermore, we find that the distribution of R7a1 within the Munda-speakers is largely restricted to one of the sub-branches (Kherwari) of northern Munda languages. This evidence does not support the hypothesis that the Austro-Asiatic speakers are the primary source of the R7 variation. Statistical analyses suggest a significant correlation between genetic variation and geography, rather than between genes and languages.

    Our high-resolution phylogeographic study, involving diverse linguistic groups in India, suggests that the high frequency of mtDNA haplogroup R7 among Munda speaking populations of India can be explained best by gene flow from linguistically different populations of Indian subcontinent. The conclusion is based on the observation that among Indo-Europeans, and particularly in Dravidians, the haplogroup is, despite its lower frequency, phylogenetically more divergent, while among the Munda speakers only one sub-clade of R7, i.e. R7a1, can be observed. It is noteworthy that though R7 is autochthonous to India, and arises from the root of hg R, its distribution and phylogeography in India is not uniform. This suggests the more ancient establishment of an autochthonous matrilineal genetic structure, and that isolation in the Pleistocene, lineage loss through drift, and endogamy of prehistoric and historic groups have greatly inhibited genetic homogenization and geographical uniformity.

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