The Schistosoma mansoni mitochondrial genome contains tandemly arrayed copies of a 62-base repeat motif. The tandem array is highly polymorphic with respect to number of repeats and commonly exhibits heteroplasmy. This study shows that a very high rate of mutation rapidly produces new repeat lengths (new haplotypes) for this mitochondrial variable number tandem repeat. A maternal inheritance pattern is also demonstrated for this repeat sequence, while the high mutation rate causes some offspring to exhibit nonmaternal haplotypes. Frequent generation of new haplotypes can be observed within samples of clonal cohorts taken from monomiracidial snail infections. These same clonal cercarial groups, when crossed, produce F1 generations that exhibit the maternal set of haplotypes, across all individuals, with the frequent addition of new mutant haplotypes. In each of 2 crosses, a subset of the recently arisen haplotypes match paternal haplotypes by chance (30.4% and 18.8%), thus giving the false appearance of partial paternal inheritance of mitochondria.
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