Histone H3 gene clusters have been described as highly conserved chromosomal markers in invertebrates. Surprisingly, in bivalves remarkable interspecific differences were found among the eight mussels and between the two clams in which histone H3 gene clusters have already been located. Although the family Veneridae comprises 10 % of the species of marine bivalves, their chromosomes are poorly studied. The clams belonging to this family present 2n = 38 chromosomes and similar karyotypes showing chromosome pairs gradually decreasing in length. In order to assess the evolutionary behavior of histone and rRNA multigene families in bivalves, we mapped histone H3 and ribosomal RNA probes to chromosomes of ten species of venerid clams.
In contrast with the reported conservation of histone H3 gene clusters and their intercalary location in invertebrates, these loci varied in number and were mostly subterminal in venerid clams. On the other hand, while a single 45S rDNA cluster, highly variable in location, was found in these organisms, 5S rDNA clusters showed interspecific differences in both number and location. The distribution patterns of these sequences were species-specific and mapped to different chromosomal positions in all clams but Ruditapes decussatus, in which one of the minor rDNA clusters and the major rDNA cluster co-located.
The diversity in the distribution patterns of histone H3 gene, 5S rDNA and 28S rDNA clusters found in venerid clams, together with their different evolutionary behaviors in other invertebrate taxa, strongly suggest that the control of the spreading of these multigene families in a group of organisms relies upon a combination of evolutionary forces that operate differently depending not only on the specific multigene family but also on the particular taxa. Our data also showed that H3 histone gene and rDNA clusters are useful landmarks to integrate nex-generation sequencing (NGS) and evolutionary genomic data in non-model species.