Extensive loss of RNA editing sites in rapidly evolving Silene mitochondrial genomes: selection vs. retroprocessing as the driving force

Genetics. 2010 Aug;185(4):1369-80. doi: 10.1534/genetics.110.118000. Epub 2010 May 17.


Theoretical arguments suggest that mutation rates influence the proliferation and maintenance of RNA editing. We identified RNA editing sites in five species within the angiosperm genus Silene that exhibit highly divergent mitochondrial mutation rates. We found that mutational acceleration has been associated with rapid loss of mitochondrial editing sites. In contrast, we did not find a significant difference in the frequency of editing in chloroplast genes, which lack the mutation rate variation observed in the mitochondrial genome. As found in other angiosperms, the rate of substitution at RNA editing sites in Silene greatly exceeds the rate at synonymous sites, a pattern that has previously been interpreted as evidence for selection against RNA editing. Alternatively, we suggest that editing sites may experience higher rates of C-to-T mutation than other portions of the genome. Such a pattern could be caused by gene conversion with reverse-transcribed mRNA (i.e., retroprocessing). If so, the genomic distribution of RNA editing site losses in Silene suggests that such conversions must be occurring at a local scale such that only one or two editing sites are affected at a time. Because preferential substitution at editing sites appears to occur in angiosperms regardless of the mutation rate, we conclude that mitochondrial rate accelerations within Silene have "fast-forwarded" a preexisting pattern but have not fundamentally changed the evolutionary forces acting on RNA editing sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • RNA Editing / genetics*
  • RNA, Chloroplast / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Silene / classification
  • Silene / genetics*
  • Species Specificity


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • RNA, Chloroplast
  • RNA, Plant