Comparative Studies on the Polymorphism and Copy Number Variation of mtSSU rDNA in Ciliates (Protista, ciliophora): Implications for Phylogenetic, Environmental, and Ecological Research

Yurui Wang, Ocean University of China
Yaohan Jiang, Ocean University of China
Yongqiang Liu, Ocean University of China
Yuan Li, Ocean University of China
Laura A. Katz, Smith College
Feng Gao, Ocean University of China
Ying Yan, Ocean University of China

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While nuclear small subunit ribosomal DNA (nSSU rDNA) is the most commonly‐used gene marker in studying phylogeny, ecology, abundance, and biodiversity of microbial eukaryotes, mitochondrial small subunit ribosomal DNA (mtSSU rDNA) provides an alternative. Recently, both copy number variation and sequence variation of nSSU rDNA have been demonstrated for diverse organisms, which can contribute to misinterpretation of microbiome data. Given this, we explore patterns for mtSSU rDNA among 13 selected ciliates (representing five classes), a major component of microbial eukaryotes, estimating copy number and sequence variation and comparing to that of nSSU rDNA. Our study reveals: (1) mtSSU rDNA copy number variation is substantially lower than that for nSSU rDNA; (2) mtSSU rDNA copy number ranges from 1.0 × 10 to 8.1 × 10 ; (3) a most common sequence of mtSSU rDNA is also found in each cell; (4) the sequence variation of mtSSU rDNA are mainly indels in poly A/T regions, and only half of species have sequence variation, which is fewer than that for nSSU rDNA; and (5) the polymorphisms between haplotypes of mtSSU rDNA would not influence the phylogenetic topology. Together, these data provide more insights into mtSSU rDNA as a powerful marker especially for microbial ecology studies. 4 5