Evolution of myxozoan mitochondrial genomes: insights from myxobolids

Tatiana Orli Milkewitz Sandberg, Dayana Yahalomi, Noam Bracha, Michal Haddas-Sasson, Tal Pupko, Stephen D. Atkinson, Jerri L. Bartholomew, Jin Yong Zhang, Dorothée Huchon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Myxozoa is a class of cnidarian parasites that encompasses over 2,400 species. Phylogenetic relationships among myxozoans remain highly debated, owing to both a lack of informative morphological characters and a shortage of molecular markers. Mitochondrial (mt) genomes are a common marker in phylogeny and biogeography. However, only five complete myxozoan mt genomes have been sequenced: four belonging to two closely related genera, Enteromyxum and Kudoa, and one from the genus Myxobolus. Interestingly, while cytochrome oxidase genes could be identified in Enteromyxum and Kudoa, no such genes were found in Myxobolus squamalis, and another member of the Myxobolidae (Henneguya salminicola) was found to have lost its entire mt genome. To evaluate the utility of mt genomes to reconstruct myxozoan relationships and to understand if the loss of cytochrome oxidase genes is a characteristic of myxobolids, we sequenced the mt genome of five myxozoans (Myxobolus wulii, M. honghuensis, M. shantungensis, Thelohanellus kitauei and, Sphaeromyxa zaharoni) using Illumina and Oxford Nanopore platforms. Results: Unlike Enteromyxum, which possesses a partitioned mt genome, the five mt genomes were encoded on single circular chromosomes. An mt plasmid was found in M. wulii, as described previously in Kudoa iwatai. In all new myxozoan genomes, five protein-coding genes (cob, cox1, cox2, nad1, and nad5) and two rRNAs (rnl and rns) were recognized, but no tRNA. We found that Myxobolus and Thelohanellus species shared unidentified reading frames, supporting the view that these mt open reading frames are functional. Our phylogenetic reconstructions based on the five conserved mt genes agree with previously published trees based on the 18S rRNA gene. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the loss of cytochrome oxidase genes is not a characteristic of all myxobolids, the ancestral myxozoan mt genome was likely encoded on a single circular chromosome, and mt plasmids exist in a few lineages. Our findings indicate that myxozoan mt sequences are poor markers for reconstructing myxozoan phylogenetic relationships because of their fast-evolutionary rates and the abundance of repeated elements, which complicates assembly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number388
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation652/20
Israel Science Foundation


    • Cnidaria
    • Molecular evolution
    • MtDNA
    • Organellar genome
    • Phylogenomics


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