Although the tandem duplication of mitochondrial (mt) sequences, especially those of the control region (CR), has been detected in metazoan species, few studies have focused on the features of the duplicated sequence itself, such as the gene conversion rate, distribution patterns of the variation, and relative rates of evolution between the copies. To investigate the features of duplicated mt sequences, we partially sequenced the mt genome of 16 Phoebastria albatrosses belonging to three species (P. albatrus, P. nigripes, and P. immutabilis). More than 2,300 base pairs of tandemly-duplicated sequence were shared by all three species. The observed gene arrangement was shared in the three Phoebastria albatrosses and suggests that the duplication event occurred in the common ancestor of the three species. Most of the copies in each individual were identical or nearly identical, and were maintained through frequent gene conversions. By contrast, portions of CR domains I and III had different phylogenetic signals, suggesting that gene conversion had not occurred in those sections after the speciation of the three species. Several lines of data, including the heterogeneity of the rate of molecular evolution, nucleotide differences, and putative secondary structures, suggests that the two sequences in CR domain I are maintained through selection; however, additional studies into the mechanisms of gene conversion and mtDNA synthesis are required to confirm this hypothesis.
2010 by The Genetics Society of Japan