Plant Mitochondria are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma

Alan C. Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A fundamental paradox motivates the study of plant mitochondrial genomics: the mutation rate is very low (lower than in the nucleus) but the rearrangement rate is high. A landmark paper published in Journal of Molecular Evolution in 1988 established these facts and revealed the paradox. Jeffrey Palmer and Laura Herbon did a prodigious amount of work in the pre-genome sequencing era to identify both the high frequency of rearrangements between closely related species, and the low frequency of mutations, observations that have now been confirmed many times by sequencing. This paper was also the first to use molecular data on rearrangements as a phylogenetic trait to build a parsimonious tree. The work was a technical tour-de-force, its findings are still at the heart of plant mitochondrial genomics, and the underlying molecular mechanisms that produce this paradox are still not completely understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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