, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 497-516

The complete nucleotide sequence of theRattus norvegicus mitochondrial genome: Cryptic signals revealed by comparative analysis between vertebrates

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This paper reports the nucleotide sequence of rat mitochondrial DNA, only the fourth mammalian mitochondrial genome to be completely sequenced. Extensive comparative studies performed with similar genomes from other organisms revealed a number of interesting features.

  1. 1)

    Messenger RNA genes: the codon strategy is mainly dictated by the base compositional constraints of the corresponding codegenic DNA strand. The usage of the initiation and termination codons follows well-established rules. In general the canonical initiator, ATG, and terminators, TAA and TAG (in rat, only TAA), are always present when there is gene overlapping or when the mRNAs possess untranslated nucleotides at the 5′ or 3′ ends.

  2. 2)

    Transfer RNA genes: a number of features suggest the peculiar evolutionary behavior of this class of genes and confirm their role in the duplication and rearrangement processes that took place in the evolution of the animal mitochondrial genome.

  3. 3)

    Ribosomal RNA genes: accurate sequence analysis revealed a number of significant examples of complementarity between ribosomal and messenger RNAs. This suggests that they might uplay an important role in the regulation of mitochondrial translation and transcription mechanisms.


The properties revealed by our work shed new light on the organization and evolution of the vertebrate mitochondrial genome and more importantly open up the way to clearly aimed experimental studies of the regulatory mechanisms in mitochondria