Does mitochondrial DNA replication in Chlamydomonas require a reverse transcriptase?

David Roy Smith, Rory J. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Among the first green algal mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) to be described in great detail was that of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (Grant & Chiang, 1980; Gray & Boer, 1988; Vahrenholz et al., 1993). It is a c. 16 kb linear molecule containing fragmented rRNA genes and telomeres, arranged in an inverted‐repeat orientation with 3′ single‐stranded overhangs (Fig. 1a). Another intriguing feature of this genome is a free‐standing open reading frame (1119 nt) encoding a reverse transcriptase‐like protein (the rtl gene), which is believed to have originated from an ancient group II intron (Boer & Gray, 1988) but is no longer associated with one. Comparative genomics and transcriptomics have shown that rtl is under purifying selection (albeit weaker than that of the standard mitochondrial protein‐coding genes), is transcriptionally active and undergoes posttranscriptional processing, suggesting that this gene is functional (Boer & Gray, 1988; Popescu & Lee, 2007; Smith & Lee, 2008a; Salinas‐Giegé et al., 2017; Gallaher et al., 2018). Its exact role remains unknown.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1192-1195
Number of pages4
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Early online date16 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • inverted repeat
  • linear mitochondrial genome
  • reverse transcriptase
  • telomere
  • telomerase


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