Arm-less mitochondrial tRNAs conserved for over 30 millions of years in spiders
Background: In recent years, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) has accelerated the generation of full mitogenomes, providing abundant material for studying different aspects of molecular evolution. Some mitogenomes have been observed to harbor atypical sequences with bizarre secondary structures, which origins and significance could only be fully understood in an evolutionary framework.
Results: Here we report and analyze the mitochondrial sequences and gene arrangements of six closely related spiders in the sister genera Parachtes and Harpactocrates, which belong to the nocturnal, ground dwelling family Dysderidae. Species of both genera have compacted mitogenomes with many overlapping genes and strikingly reduced tRNAs that are among the shortest described within metazoans. Thanks to the conservation of the gene order and the nucleotide identity across close relatives, we were able to predict the secondary structures even on arm-less tRNAs, which would be otherwise unattainable for a single species. They exhibit aberrant secondary structures with the lack of either DHU or TΨC arms and many miss-pairings in the acceptor arm but this degeneracy trend goes even further since at least four tRNAs are arm-less in the six spider species studied.
Conclusions: The conservation of at least four arm-less tRNA genes in two sister spider genera for about 30 myr suggest that these genes are still encoding fully functional tRNAs though they may be post-transcriptionally edited to be fully functional as previously described in other species. We suggest that the presence of overlapping and truncated tRNA genes may be related and explains why spider mitogenomes are smaller than those of other invertebrates.