A region of the mitochondrial genome of the primitive brown alga Pylaiella littoralis containing a plasmid-like insert which contains a transcribed T7-phage-type RNA polymerase gene is described. This is a first report of a phage-type RNA polymerase gene integrated in a mitochondrial genome. As the mitochondrial genome of this alga also contains sigma-70 proteobacterial promoter regions, i.e. traces of the ancestral alpha2betabeta'sigma-70 proteobacterial RNA polymerase, this genome witnesses two types of RNA polymerases. As such the mitochondrial genome of P. littoralis represents a unique stage in the evolution of transcription in mitochondria, which contrasts with that of the primitive protist Reclinomonas americana, which still retains the ancestral alpha2betabeta'sigma-70 proteobacterial RNA polymerase genes, and with animals, land plants and fungi, which use phage-type polymerases.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press Limited.