Bivalves of the families Mytilidae, Unionidae, and Veneridae have an unusual mode of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) transmission called doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI). A characteristic feature of DUI is the presence of two gender-associated mtDNA genomes that are transmitted through males (M-type mtDNA) and females (F-type mtDNA), respectively. Female mussels are predominantly homoplasmic with only the F-type expressed in both somatic and gonadal tissue; males are heteroplasmic with the M-type expressed in the gonad and F-type in somatic tissue for the most part. An unusual evolutionary feature of this system is that an mt genome with F-coding sequences occasionally invades the male route of inheritance (i.e., a “role reversal” event), and is thereafter transmitted as a new M-type. Phylogenetic studies have demonstrated that the new or “recently masculinized” M-types may eventually replace the older or “standard” M-types over time. To investigate whether this replacement process could be due to an advantage in sperm swimming behavior, we measured differences in motility parameters and found that sperm with the recently masculinized M-type had significantly faster curvilinear velocity and average path velocity when compared to sperm with standard M-type. This increase in sperm swimming speed could explain the multiple evolutionary replacements of standard M-types by masculinized M-types that have been hypothesized for the mytilid lineage. However, our observations do not support the hypothesis that DUI originated because it permits the evolution of mitochondrial adaptations specific to sperm performance, otherwise, the evolutionarily older, standard M genome should perform better.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1