Recent data from mitochondrial genomics and proteomics research demonstrate the existence of several atypical mitochondrial protein-coding genes (other than the standard set of 13) and the involvement of mtDNA-encoded proteins in functions other than energy production in several animal species including humans. These results are of considerable importance for evolutionary and cellular biology because they indicate that animal mtDNAs have a larger functional repertoire than previously believed. This review summarizes recent studies on animal species with a non-standard mitochondrial functional repertoire and discusses how these genetic novelties represent promising candidates for studying the role of the mitochondrial genome in speciation.
Keywords: ORFan genes; animals; mitochondrial genome; speciation.
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