Doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI) of mitochondrial DNA in bivalves is a fascinating exception to strictly maternal inheritance as practiced by all other animals. Recent work on DUI suggests that there may be unique regions of the mitochondrial genomes that play a role in sex determination and/or sexual development in freshwater mussels (order Unionoida). In this study, one complete mitochondrial genome of the hermaphroditic swan mussel, Anodonta cygnea, is sequenced and compared to the complete mitochondrial genome of the gonochoric duck mussel, Anodonta anatina. An in silico assessment of novel proteins found within freshwater bivalve species (known as F-, H-, and M-open reading frames or ORFs) is conducted, with special attention to putative transmembrane domains (TMs), signal peptides (SPs), signal cleavage sites (SCS), subcellular localization, and potential control regions. Characteristics of TMs are also examined across freshwater mussel lineages.
In silico analyses suggests the presence of SPs and SCSs and provides some insight into possible function(s) of these novel ORFs. The assessed confidence in these structures and functions was highly variable, possibly due to the novelty of these proteins. The number and topology of putative TMs appear to be maintained among both F- and H-ORFs, however, this is not the case for M-ORFs. There does not appear to be a typical control region in H-type mitochondrial DNA, especially given the loss of tandem repeats in unassigned regions when compared to F-type mtDNA.
In silico analyses provides a useful tool to discover patterns in DUI and to navigate further in situ analyses related to DUI in freshwater mussels. In situ analysis will be necessary to further explore the intracellular localizations and possible role of these open reading frames in the process of sex determination in freshwater mussel.