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Monophyly of clade III nematodes is not supported by phylogenetic analysis of complete mitochondrial genome sequences


Abstract Background The orders Ascaridida, Oxyurida, and Spirurida represent major components of zooparasitic nematode diversity, including many species of veterinary and medical importance. Phylum-wide nematode phylogenetic hypotheses have mainly been based on nuclear rDNA sequences, but more recently complete mitochondrial (mtDNA) gene sequences have provided another source of molecular information to evaluate relationships. Although there is much agreement between nuclear rDNA and mtDNA phylogenies, relationships among certain major clades are different. In this study we report that mtDNA sequences do not support the monophyly of Ascaridida, Oxyurida and Spirurida (clade III) in contrast to results for nuclear rDNA. Results from mtDNA genomes show promise as an additional independently evolving genome for developing phylogenetic hypotheses for nematodes, although substantially increased taxon sampling is needed for enhanced comparative value with nuclear rDNA. Ultimately, topological incongruence (and congruence) between nuclear rDNA and mtDNA phylogenetic hypotheses will need to be tested relative to additional independent loci that provide appropriate levels of resolution. Results For this comparative phylogenetic study, we determined the complete mitochondrial genome sequences of three nematode species, Cucullanus robustus (13,972 bp) representing Ascaridida, Wellcomia siamensis (14,128 bp) representing Oxyurida, and Heliconema longissimum (13,610 bp) representing Spirurida. These new sequences were used along with 33 published nematode mitochondrial genomes to investigate phylogenetic relationships among chromadorean orders. Phylogenetic analyses of both nucleotide and amino acid sequence datasets support the hypothesis that Ascaridida is nested within Rhabditida. The position of Oxyurida within Chromadorea varies among analyses; in most analyses this order is sister to the Ascaridida plus Rhabditida clade, with representative Spirurida forming a distinct clade, however, in one case Oxyurida is sister to Spirurida. Ascaridida, Oxyurida, and Spirurida (the sampled clade III taxa) do not form a monophyletic group based on complete mitochondrial DNA sequences. Tree topology tests revealed that constraining clade III taxa to be monophyletic, given the mtDNA datasets analyzed, was a significantly worse result. Conclusion The phylogenetic hypotheses from comparative analysis of the complete mitochondrial genome data (analysis of nucleotide and amino acid datasets, and nucleotide data excluding 3rd positions) indicates that nematodes representing Ascaridida, Oxyurida and Spirurida do not share an exclusive most recent common ancestor, in contrast to published results based on nuclear ribosomal DNA. Overall, mtDNA genome data provides reliable support for nematode relationships that often corroborates findings based on nuclear rDNA. It is anticipated that additional taxonomic sampling will provide a wealth of information on mitochondrial genome evolution and sequence data for developing phylogenetic hypotheses for the phylum Nematoda.

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