, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 408-416
Date: 28 Jul 2005

Microsatellite Evolution in the Mitochondrial Genome of Bechstein’s Bat (Myotis bechsteinii)

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Being highly polymorphic, microsatellites are widely used genetic markers. They are abundant throughout the nuclear genomes of eukaryotes but rare in the mitochondrial genomes (mtDNA) of animals. We describe a short but highly polymorphic AT microsatellite in the mtDNA control region of Bechstein’s bat and discuss the role of mutation, genetic drift, and selection in maintaining its variability. As heteroplasmy and hence mutation rate were positively correlated with repeat number, a simple mutation model cannot explain the observed frequency distribution of AT copy numbers. Because of the unimodal distribution of repeat numbers found in heteroplasmic individuals, single step mutations are likely to be the predominant mechanism of copy number alternations. Above a certain copy number (seven repeats), deletions of single dinucleotide repeats seem to be more common than additions, which results in a decrease in frequency of long alleles. Heteroplasmy was inherited from mothers to their offspring and no evidence of paternal inheritance of mitochondria was found. Genetic differences accumulated with more distant ancestry, which suggests that microsatellites can be useful genetic markers in population genetics.

[Reviewing Editor: Dr. Rafael Zardoya]