Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version



New Phytologist (2017) 213: 391–403


Copyright 2016 The Authors.

doi: 10.1111/nph.14135


  • Currently, complete mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes) are available from all major land plant lineages except ferns. Sequencing of fern mitogenomes could shed light on the major evolutionary transitions that established mitogenomic diversity among extant lineages.

  • In this study, we generated complete mitogenomes from the adder’s tongue fern (Ophioglossum californicum) and the whisk fern (Psilotum nudum).

  • The Psilotum mitogenome (628 kb) contains a rich complement of genes and introns, some of which are the largest of any green plant organellar genome. In the Ophioglossum mitogenome (372 kb), gene and intron content is slightly reduced, including the loss of all four mitochondrial ccm genes. Transcripts of nuclear Ccm genes also were not detected, suggesting loss of the entire mitochondrial cytochrome c maturation pathway from Ophioglossum. Both fern mitogenomes are highly repetitive, yet they show extremely low levels of active recombination. Transcriptomic sequencing uncovered ~1000 sites of C-to-U RNA editing in both species, plus a small number (< 60) of U-to-C edit sites.

  • Overall, the first mitochondrial genomes of ferns show a mix of features shared with lycophytes and/or seed plants and several novel genomic features, enabling a robust reconstruction of the mitogenome in the common ancestor of vascular plants.