Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Mitochondrial Group I Introns in Hexacorals Are Regulatory Genetic Elements

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Steinar Daae Johansen and Åse Emblem

Submitted: October 29th, 2019 Reviewed: February 3rd, 2020 Published: March 7th, 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.91465

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Hexacoral mitochondrial genomes are highly economically organized and vertebrate-like in size, structure, and gene content. A hallmark, however, is the presence of group I introns interrupting essential oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) genes. Two genes, encoding NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5 (ND5) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI), are interrupted with introns. The ND5 intron, located at position 717, is obligatory in all hexacoral specimens investigated. The ND5-717 intron is a giant-sized intron that carries several canonical OxPhos genes. Different modes of splicing appear to apply for the ND5-717 intron, including conventional cis-splicing, backsplicing, and trans-splicing. Three distinct versions of hexacoral COI introns are noted at genic positions 884, 867, and 720. The COI introns are of the mobile-type, carrying homing endonuclease genes (HEGs). Some COI-884 intron HEGs are highly expressed as in-frame COI exon fusions, while the expression of COI-867 intron HEGs appear repressed. We discuss biological roles of hexacoral mitochondrial ND5 and COI introns and suggest that the ND5-717 intron has gained new regulatory functions beyond self-splicing.


  • backsplicing
  • colonial anemone
  • mitochondrial genome
  • mtDNA
  • mushroom corals
  • sea anemone
  • stony corals

1. Introduction

Hexacorallia (hexacorals) represents an ecological important subclass of Anthozoa with about 4300 extant nematocyst-bearing species [1]. Well-known hexacoral orders include Actiniaria (sea anemones), Zoantharia (colonial anemones), Scleractinia (stony corals), Corallimorpharia (mushroom corals), and Antipatharia (black corals). Ceriantharia (tube anemones) was previously considered to be a hexacoral order, but recent studies suggest tube anemones to represent a distinct subclass of Anthozoa [2].

Hexacorals have a global marine distribution pattern typically recognized in tropical seas at shallow waters living in close relationships with endosymbiotic photosynthetic alga. However, coral reefs and sea anemones in deep offshore waters have more recently been investigated [3, 4, 5, 6]. These cold-water hexacorals occur in low temperatures at high latitudes or great depths. Among the approximately 1500 stony coral species known, 50% are located in cold-water habitats [7, 8]. A common feature among cold-water deep-sea hexacorals is that they are non-endosymbiotic in respect to the photosynthetic alga.

Mitochondria are essential organelles of animal cells, involved in processes like cell metabolism, cell signaling, and cell death [9, 10]. Hexacorals, like all other animals, contain mitochondrial genomes (mtDNAs) encoding a subset (approximately 1%) of the gene products involved in mitochondrial structure and function [11]. Complete mtDNA sequences have been determined from approximately 200 hexacoral specimens representing 133 species and 51 families from sea anemones, colonial anemones, stony corals, mushroom corals, and black corals (Appendix Table 1). In general, hexacoral mitochondrial genomes are vertebrate-like in size (17–22 kb), structure, and coding capacity (Figure 1A). The circular and economically organized mtDNA encodes the same set of 2 ribosomal RNAs and 13 hydrophobic proteins involved in the oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) system [11]. However, noncanonical and optional mitochondrial genes may occur in some hexacoral species [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]. More unusual features, however, are the highly reduced tRNA gene repertoire (only 1–2 tRNA genes) and the presence of complex group I introns [11, 17, 18, 19, 20].

Figure 1.

Mitochondrial genome and group I intron. (A) Circular map presenting gene content and organization of the sea anemone Urticina eques mtDNA. The mitochondrial genome harbors 14 protein coding genes, 2 rRNA genes, and 2 tRNA genes. All genes are encoded by the same DNA strand. The tRNA genes M and W (tRNAfMet and tRNATrp) are indicated by the standard one-letter symbols for amino acids; SSU and LSU, mitochondrial small- and large-subunit rRNA genes; ND1–6, NADH dehydrogenase subunit 1–6 genes; COI-III, cytochrome c oxidase subunit I–III genes; Cyt b, cytochrome b gene; ATP6 and 8, ATPase subunit 6 and 8 genes; and HEG, homing endonuclease gene. The ND5-717 and CO-884 introns are indicated. Photo: SD Johansen. (B) A general diagram of group I ribozyme secondary and tertiary structure, according to the representation by [23]. The nine conserved secondary structure paired segments of the catalytic core (P1–P9) are shown, and the three tertiary domains (scaffold, substrate, catalytic) are indicated by blue, yellow, and green boxes, respectively. Essential nucleotide positions in P1 (U, G), P7 (G, C), and P9 (G) are indicated in red. 5′, upstream exon sequence; 3′, downstream exon sequence.

Group I introns are intervening sequences interrupting functional genes in eukaryotic (mitochondrial, chloroplast, nuclear, viral) and prokaryotic (eubacterial, archaeal, phage) genomes [21]. Like other mobile genetic elements, horizontal transfer of a group I intron can affect the host by altering the function of surrounding genes, potentially interrupting vital processes but also creating diversity and beneficial alterations. Mitochondrial group I introns in metazoans are rare and restricted to some orders within the basal phyla of Placozoa, Porifera, and Cnidaria [11, 22]. Unlike spliceosomal introns, which are abundant in the nuclear genome of eukaryotes, group I introns encode catalytic RNAs (ribozymes) with the unique ability to self-splice as naked RNA. These introns sometimes even code for homing endonucleases, giving additional mobility to the ribozymes. The intron RNA processing reaction is catalyzed by the ribozyme, which folds into at least nine conserved paired segments (P1–P9), further organized into hallmark helical stacks named the catalytic domain, the substrate domain, and the scaffold domain (Figure 1B) [23, 24, 25]. Group I intron sequences are removed from precursor transcripts in a guanosine-dependent two-step transesterification reaction, leading to exon ligation and intron excision [21].

This chapter reviews recent developments in the characterization of hexacoral mitochondrial genomes with a focus on gene organization and rearrangements, complex obligatory group I introns in the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5 (ND5) gene, and mobile-type group I introns in the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene.


2. Mitochondrial gene organization and expression in hexacorals

Five common features in the gene organization can be drawn from the 200 available mitochondrial genome sequences representing all five hexacoral orders (Appendix Table 1). (1) The 13 annotated OxPhos genes encode the same set of proteins as in vertebrate mtDNA [26], representing Complex I (ND1, 2, 3, 4, 4 L, 6, and 6), Complex III (CytB), Complex IV (COI, II, and III), and Complex V (ATPases 6 and 8). The additional approximately 70 OxPhos proteins are nuclear encoded [27]. (2) All canonical mitochondrial genes (OxPhos genes, rRNA, and tRNA genes) are encoded by the same DNA strand. (3) The tRNA gene repertoire is highly reduced, corresponding to tRNAfMet and tRNATrp in sea anemones, stony corals, mushroom corals, and black corals, and only tRNAfMet in colonial anemones [14, 28, 29]. This indicates extensive tRNA import into mitochondria [20]. (4) The ND5 gene is split into two exons at nucleotide position 717 (human ND5 gene numbering [19]) by a group I intron found in all hexacorals studied so far (see Section 3 below). (5) The mitochondrial gene synteny appears highly conserved within, but not between, different hexacoral orders.

2.1 Order-specific gene organization

Each hexacoral order harbors a closely related primary mitochondrial gene organization (Figure 2A). This is an interesting notion since the orders have been separated from each other for 100 million years or more [28]. Stony corals and mushroom corals share some mtDNA synteny [28, 30], and similarly, some segments of synteny appear conserved between sea anemones, colonial anemones, and black corals [30]. The only mitochondrial gene synteny common to all species in all five orders is the upstream proximity of the tRNAfMet gene to the large-subunit (LSU) rRNA gene (Figure 2). This suggests co-expression similar to that of tRNAVal and LSU rRNA genes in vertebrate mitochondria [26]. Recent studies in human and rat conclude that the mitochondrial encoded tRNAVal has replaced the 5S rRNA and become an integrated component as a structural rRNA of the mitochondrial ribosome [31]. Thus, tRNAfMet is considered as an interesting candidate for a similar dual function in hexacorals.

Figure 2.

Gene organization of hexacoral mitochondrial genomes. Linear presentations of circular maps. Intron-containing OxPhos genes (yellow); intron-lacking OxPhos genes (blue); structural RNA genes (red). The obligatory ND5-717 introns are indicated by black lines, and the optional COI introns by arrows. (A) Primary arrangement in the five hexacoral orders Actiniaria, Antipatharia, Zoantharia, Scleractinia, and Corallimorpharia. (B) Deviations from the primary arrangement seen in the deep-water species Madrepora oculata, Lophelia pertusa, Solenosmilia variabilis, Corallimorphus profundus, and Corynactis californica. (C) Deviation from the sea anemone primary arrangement seen in the deep-water Protanthea simplex. MCh-I and MCh-II, mitochondrial chromosome I and II. SSU-a and SSU-b, two alleles of the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene. Genes located on the opposite strand in MCh-I are indicated by red dots.

Deviations from the primary order arrangements have been reported in some sea anemones, stony corals, and mushroom corals and apparently confined to non-endosymbiotic deep-water species. Among the stony corals (Figure 2B), Madrepora has a rearrangement in the COII and COIII gene order, and Lophelia and Solenosmilia have a more dramatic rearrangement involving three genes (CytB, ND2, and ND6) [19, 32]. The latter example involves a dramatic shift in the size of the ND5-717 intron from approximately 10 kb (primary arrangement) to 6 kb (see Section 3.1 about transfers of OxPhos genes into the intron). Two different deviations were noted in the mushroom corals Corallimorphus and Corynactis [30]. These rearrangements appear complex and involve a drastic size reduction of the ND5-717 intron from approximately 18 kb (primary arrangement) to 12 kb and 10 kb, respectively (Figure 2B).

The most dramatic mitochondrial genome rearrangement is seen in the deep-water sea anemone Protanthea [16]. Here, the 21 kb mtDNA is arranged along two circular mitochondrial chromosomes, MCh-I and MCh-II (Figure 2C). The mitochondrial gene order is heavily scrambled compared to the primary sea anemone arrangement. Different from all other hexacorals, genes at MCh-I are coded on both DNA strands. The ND5-717 intron size was increased from approximately 2 kb (primary sea anemone arrangement) to 15 kb in Protanthea (Appendix Table 1). Interestingly, the smaller MCh-II encodes the mitochondrial COII and one allele of the small subunit (SSU) rRNA. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that MCh-II is horizontally transferred into Protanthea from a distantly related sea anemone [16]. Not all deep-water hexacorals have mtDNA rearrangements. The Relicanthus sea anemone, sampled at a depth of 2500 m, [4] harbors the primary arrangement [33]. Similarly, Bolocera specimen samples at 40 m (Atlantic Ocean) [12] and at 1100 m (Pacific Ocean) [5] contain the same primary sea anemone arrangement.

2.2 Mitochondrial RNA in hexacorals

Mitochondrial RNAs have been investigated in a few hexacoral species representing sea anemones, colonial anemones, and mushroom corals [6, 12, 14, 15, 16]. RNAseq data were obtained from 454 pyrosequencing and Ion Torrent PGM sequencing. Several general features are noted: (1) ribosomal RNA constituted more than 90% of the reads and is found to be at least 10–20 times more abundant than most OxPhos gene transcripts; (2) all the conventional genes were transcribed, and the Complex IV OxPhos genes appeared most expressed; (3) group I introns were perfectly spliced out from ND5 and COI mRNA precursors; (4) COI-884 intron splicing appeared more efficient than that of the ND5-717 intron, suggesting intron retention of ND5 mRNA [16]; and (5) noncanonical mitochondrial genes, such as the intron-encoded HEG and non-annotated open reading frames (ORFs), were clearly expressed. One of these ORFs, corresponding to a 306-amino-acid unknown protein in the mushroom coral Amplexidiscus, was highly expressed and located at the opposite strand compared to canonical OxPhos genes [16].


3. An obligatory group I intron in the ND5 gene

All hexacoral mitochondrial genomes harbor ND5-717 introns (Appendix Table 1), making this group I intron an obligatory feature. Evolutionary analyses of ND5-717 introns have previously been performed and show a strict vertical inheritance pattern and a fungal origin [19]. Homologous group I introns at the ND5 insertion site 717 are frequently noted in the fungi Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Zygomycota [34], which include mobile-type versions with HEGs [35, 36]. This supports an ancient transfer with a subsequent progression into an obligatory strict vertical inherited intron. Interestingly, HEG-containing ND5-717 was also reported in the mitochondrial genome of choanoflagellates, species considered as the animal ancestors [37].

3.1 The ND5-717 intron is a giant group I intron

Phylogenetic analysis supports the early version of hexacoral ND5-717 introns to harbor two OxPhos genes (ND1 and ND3) in P8 [19]. This ancient organization is represented by sea anemones, colonial anemones, and black corals (Figure 2A). Insertions of ORFs into loop regions are a common feature in group I introns, and engulfing these compulsory genes might be a strategy for the intron in becoming essential to the host genome. RNA secondary structure folding of the ND5-717 ribozyme reveals that the catalytically important ωG (last nucleotide of the intron) is replaced by ωA (Figure 3). This replacement is likely to have a dramatic effect on intron biology, leading to host-factor dependent splicing and inhibition of 3′ hydrolysis-dependent intron RNA circularization [38].

Figure 3.

Structure diagram of Urticina eques ND5-717 group I intron. Conserved helical segments (P1–P10) are indicated, and flanking ND5 exon sequences are shown in lowercase letters. The three helical stacks, named scaffold domain, substrate domain, and catalytic domain, are indicated by blue, yellow, and green boxes, respectively. The last nucleotide of the intron (ω), which is considered as a universally conserved guanosine (ωG) in group I intron, is ωA in hexacoral ND5-717 introns (red circle). The P8 segment harbors the two OxPhos genes ND1 and ND3.

In some hexacoral orders, mitochondrial genome rearrangements resulted in additional transfers of canonical genes into the P8 segment. In stony corals two versions of 6 and 11 genes are intron-located (Figure 2A and B). Furthermore, it was noted that robust-clade species have developed a highly compact ribozyme core compared to complex-clade species (and all other hexacorals) [19]. The most complex ND5-717 introns are found in mushroom corals and in the Protanthea sea anemone [6, 16, 28, 30]. Whereas three versions of 9, 11, and 15 intron-located genes are noted in mushroom corals, 14 genes are present in P8 of Protanthea (Figure 2B and C). The ND5-717 intron in mushroom corals represent the largest group I intron known to date with an approximate size of 19 kb.

3.2 Unconventional splicing of ND5-717 introns

Mitochondrial RNA sequencing reveals perfectly ligated ND5 mRNA exons in sea anemones [12, 15], colonial anemones [14], and mushroom corals [16], which support a biological splicing activity of ND5-717 introns. In the mushroom corals Ricordea and Amplexodiscus, the splicing efficiency of the ND5-717 intron was reported to be about 10% of that of the COI-884 intron located in the same mitochondrial genome [16]. The complex ND5-717 intron contains 2–15 mitochondrial genes within P8 that challenges its mode of splicing. The shortest forms of ND5-717 introns (approximately 1.6–2.4 kb) detected in sea anemones, colonial anemones, and black corals are likely to be excised by conventional group I intron cis-splicing from one single precursor RNA (Figure 4A).

Figure 4.

Different modes of ND5-717 intron splicing. A schematic group I ribozyme (Rz717; green box) is indicated above each precursor map, and ligated ND5 mRNA is shown below. Splice sites (5′SS and 3′SS), initiation codons (AUG/GUG), and stop codons (UAA) are indicated. (A) Cis-splicing performed from a single precursor RNA where both ND5 exons are in a conventional order (exon 1-exon 2). (B) Backsplicing performed from a single precursor RNA where both ND5 exons are in a non-conventional order (exon 2-exon 1). (C) Trans-splicing performed from two separate precursor RNAs, each containing one ND5 exon.

The longest forms of ND5-717 introns (approximately 15–19 kb), present in mushroom corals [28, 30] and the deep-water Protanthea sea anemone [6], contain almost the entire mitochondrial genome within P8. Recently, experimental support of intron removal by backsplicing in mushroom corals was reported [16]. It was found that the primary ND5 transcript contains a permuted exon arrangement where exon 2 is followed by exon 1 (Figure 4B). Correct ND5 exon ligation was achieved by involving a circular exon-containing RNA intermediate, which is a hallmark of intron backsplicing [16]. This is the first example of a natural group I intron removed by backsplicing and may explain why some hexacorals tolerate giant ND5-717 group I introns.

How the ND5-717 introns in stony corals are removed from their precursors by splicing is currently not known. These introns (sizes from approximately 6–12 kb) [19, 39] may be too large and complex to be removed by conventional cis-splicing, and the ND5 exons may be too distant apart for backsplicing. Thus, a more plausible alternative is trans-splicing that generates a ligated ND5 mRNA from two separate precursor RNAs (Figure 4C). An interesting notion is that group I intron trans-splicing has been reported in mitochondrial transcripts of placozoan animals [40].


4. Mobile-type group I introns in the COI gene

The gene encoding COI is a frequent host of group I introns in hexacoral mitochondrial genomes. Of the total 133 species inspected (Appendix Table 1), about 50% harbor an intron insertion. COI introns are present in all five hexacoral orders, but at different distribution patterns.

4.1 Three different insertion sites in the COI gene

The COI gene is interrupted by group I introns at three genic positions, where each intron site represents a unique evolutionary history [14, 41]. The intron insertion sites correspond to positions 720, 867, and 884 (human COI gene numbering [19]). The COI-884 introns are widespread in hexacorals, present in most investigated species of sea anemones, mushroom corals, and black corals, as well as a few stony corals (Appendix Table 1) [12, 41, 42]. Colonial anemones harbor COI-867 introns [14], and some Indo-Pacific stony coral species contain COI-720 introns [41, 43]. It appears that hexacorals are infected at least three times by COI introns or that this mitochondrial gene is subjected to recurrent group I intron invasion and extinction.

COI introns at different insertion sites are distinct in their ribozyme secondary structure, exemplified by the Urticina sea anemone and Zoanthus colonial anemone introns COI-884 and COI-867, respectively (Figure 5A and B). A common feature, however, is the large insertion within helical segment P8 harboring a HEG that codes for a homing endonuclease of the LAGLIDADG family. These HEGs extend beyond P8 and into the ribozyme domains [12, 14, 15, 43]. Thus, COI-720, COI-867, and COI-884 intron sequences possess dual coding potentials of catalytic RNAs and homing endonucleases. This integration of the endonuclease into the ribozyme core structure ties the two elements closer together, making the endonuclease less prone to degradation.

Figure 5.

COI introns and HEG expression strategy. (A) Secondary structure diagram of the sea anemone Urticina eques COI-884 group I intron. The conserved paired segments of the catalytic core (P1–P10) are shown, and flanking COI exon sequences are in lowercase letters. The P8 extension containing the HEG is indicated. Note that the HEG stop codon (UAG; red box) refers to the last three nucleotides of the intron. The three helical stacks are indicated by blue, yellow, and green boxes. (B) Secondary structure diagram of the colonial anemone Zoanthus sansibaricus COI-867 group I intron. The P1–P10 core segments are shown, and the P8 extension containing the HEG is indicated. Flanking COI exon sequences are in lowercase letters. Note the HEG initiation codon (AUG; green box) and stop codon (UAG; red box) are located in the 5′ end and 3′ end, respectively, of the intron sequence. The three helical stacks are indicated by blue, yellow, and green boxes. (C) Organization of homing endonuclease transcripts from the COI-884 intron (Urticina eques; left) and the COI-867 intron (Zoanthus sansibaricus; right). While the COI-884 intron transcript is in-frame with the COI exon 1 and highly expressed, the COI-867 intron transcript is freestanding within the intron and repressed. HE, homing endonuclease.

4.2 Expression of intron-encoded homing endonucleases

Mobile-type introns, like the hexacoral mitochondrial COI introns, promote homing into cognate intron-less alleles by gene conversion [44, 45]. Intron homing is initiated by a DNA double-strand break catalyzed by the intron-encoded homing endonuclease. Expression of HEGs has been studied in COI introns of sea anemones, colonial anemones, and mushroom corals [12, 14, 15, 16]. Two main versions were noted, leading to either highly expressed or repressed HEGs (Figure 5C). (1) The most successful mode of expression is the in-frame COI-HEG fusion strategy. The HEG, which covers most of the intron sequences (including the ribozyme encoded parts), is fused in-frame with the 5′ COI exon. Highly expressed in-frame HEGs are observed in the sea anemones Urticina and Bolocera [12], and similar in-frame organizations appear common in other sea anemones such as Isosicyonis, Phymanthus, Actinia, and Stichodactyla ([15, 46, 47]; our unpublished results). A COI fusion strategy for intron HEG expression in mitochondria, however, is not unique to sea anemones since several fungi are using this approach [44, 48]. (2) Truncated in-frame fusions or freestanding intron HEGs result in significant lower expressions. This is observed for COI-884 introns of Hormathia and Anemonia sea anemones [12, 15], COI-884 introns of mushroom corals [16], and COI-867 introns of colonial anemones [14].


5. Concluding remarks

A hallmark of hexacoral mitochondrial genomes is the presence of self-catalytic group I introns. What is the biological role of these mitochondrial introns—are they purely selfish genetic elements, or could they have gained new regulatory functions beyond self-splicing? Current knowledge suggests a fungal origin of the hexacoral introns [19, 34, 49]. The group I introns in the COI gene encode LAGLIDADG-type homing endonucleases, consistent with intron mobility between cognate intron-less alleles [12, 45]. The hexacoral COI introns appear gained and lost in multiple cycles during the last 0.5 billion years [42], which supports a selfish intron behavior.

The ND5-717 intron is apparently obligatory in hexacoral mitochondrial genomes, making this genetic element an interesting candidate in gene regulation. Similar obligatory group I introns have been noted in the chloroplast tRNALeu gene of all green plants and in the nuclear LSU rRNA gene of all Physarales myxomycetes [50, 51]. These obligatory mitochondrial, chloroplast, and nuclear introns are considered domesticated group I introns that may have gained new host-specific functions beyond self-splicing [21, 25]. The mitochondrial ND5 mRNA stability has a key role in respiratory control in higher animals; it is tightly regulated and contains m1A base modification [52, 53, 54]. Intron retention of ND5 mRNA was recently reported in mushroom corals [16], suggesting possible host regulatory functions in hexacorals. Thus, further investigations on hexacoral mitochondrial intron functions and biological roles are needed and highly welcome.



We thank current and former members of the research teams at the Genomics Group (Nord University) and the RNA Group (UiT—The Arctic University of Norway) for discussion and support. A special thanks to the former PhD students Sylvia Ighem Chi and Ilona Urbarova for thoroughly investigating hexacoral genomics.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


In January 2020 about 200 hexacoral mitochondrial genomes have been completely, or nearly completely, sequenced. These mitochondrial genomes represent all 5 hexacoral orders, 51 families, 77 genera, and 133 distinct species. All specimens (100%) harbor ND5-717 and approximately 50% harbor COI introns. Key features are summarized in Appendix Table 1.

SpeciesFamilyAccession noMt size1ND5 intron (size)2COI intron (size)3
A: Sea anemones (Order Actiniaria)
Synhalcurias elegansActiniaridaeKR051009P11,445 bpND5+ (1635 bp)COI−
Actinia equinaActiniidaeMH545699C20,690 bpND5+ (2170 bp)884_COI+ (857 bp)
Actinia tenebrosaActiniidaeMK291977C20,691 bpND5+ (2170 bp)884_COI+ (854 bp)
Anemonia majanoActiniidaeKY860670C19,545 bpND5+ (1679 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Anemonia sulcataActiniidaeMN011067C20,390 bpND5+ (1725 bp)884_COI+ (1053 bp)
Anemonia viridisActiniidaeKY860669C20,108 bpND5+ (1726 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Anthopleura midoriActiniidaeKT989511C20,039 bpND5+ (1714 bp)884_COI+ (854 bp)
Bolocera tuediaeActiniidaeHG423145C19,143 bpND5+ (2055 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Bolocera sp.ActiniidaeKU507297C19,463 bpND5+ (2397 bp)884_COI+ (854 bp)
Entacmaea quadricolorActiniidaeMN066616C20,960 bpND5+ (2052 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Epiactis japonicaActiniidaeMN076184C18,835 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Epiactis proliferaActiniidaeRef. [33]C19,752 bpND5+ (1737 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Isosicyonis striataActiniidaeKR051006C19,001 bpND5+ (1695 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Urticina equesActiniidaeHG423144C20,458 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (850 bp)
Antholoba achatesActinostolidaeKR051002C17,816 bpND5+ (1884 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Stomphia selaginellaActinostolidaeRef. [33]C18,349 bpND5+ (1784 bp)884_COI+ (829 bp)
Aiptasia pulchella4AiptasiidaeHG423147C19,791 bpND5+ (1730 bp)884_COI+ (847 bp)
Aiptasia pulchella4AiptasiidaeHG423148C19,790 bpND5+ (1730 bp)884_COI+ (847 bp)
Bartholomea annulataAiptasiidaeMN066614C19,615 bpND5+ (1754 bp)884_COI+ (847 bp)
Alicia sansibarensisAliciidaeKR051001C19,575 bpND5+ (2158 bp)COI−
Relicanthus daphneaeBoloceroididaeMK947129C17,727 bpND5+ (1721 bp)884_COI+ (926 bp)
Edwardsia gilbertensisEdwardsiidaeMN066615P17,661 bpND5+ (1604 bp)COI−
Edwardsia timidaEdwardsiidaeRef. [33]C18,683 bpND5+ (1622 bp)COI−
Nematostella sp.EdwardsiidaeDQ643835C16,389 bpND5+ (1620 bp)COI−
Protanthea simplexGonactiniidaeMH500774/75C21,326 bpND5+ (15,262 bp)COI−
Halcampoides purpureaHalcampoidisaeKR051003C18,038 bpND5+ (1648 bp)884_COI+ (856 bp)
Halcurias pilatusHalcuriidaeKR051004P10,972 bpND5+ (1635 bp)COI−
Haloclava productaHaloclavidaeMN076185P17,416 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Hormathia digitataHormathiidaeHG423146C18,754 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Liponema brevicorneLiponematidaeMN076188C19,143 bpND5+ (2055 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Metridium senileMetridiidaeHG423143C17,444 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Metridium senileMetridiidaeAF000023C17,743 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Phymanthus cruciferPhymanthidaeKR051007C19,727 bpND5+ (1911 bp)884_COI+ (865 bp)
Sagartia ornataSagartiidaeKR051008C17,446 bpND5+ (1671 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Heteractis auroraStichodactylidaeMN076186C19,999 bpND5+ (1737 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Heteractis crispaStichodactylidaeMN076187C18,835 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (853 bp)
Stichodactyla helianthusStichodactylidaeRef. [33]C19,551 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (866 bp)
Stichodactyla helianthusStichodactylidaeUnpublished5C18,999 bpND5+ (1680 bp)884_COI+ (865 bp)
Stichodactyla meretensiiStichodactylidaeRef. [33]C18,849 bpND5+ (1681 bp)884_COI+ (866 bp)
B: Colonial anemones (Order Zoantharia)
Savalia savagliaParazoanthidaeDQ825686C20,764 bpND5+ (2052 bp)867_COI+ (1238 bp)
Palythoa heliodiscusSphenopidaeKY888673C20,841 bpND5+ (2077 bp)887_COI+ (1276 bp)
Zoanthus sansibaricusZoanthidaeKY888672C20,972 bpND5+ (2096 bp)867_COI+ (1327 bp)
C: Mushroom corals (Order Corallimorpharia)
Corallimorphus profundusCorallimorphidaeKP938440C20,488 bpND5+ (12,389 bp)884_COI+ (1182 bp)
Corynactis californicaCorallimorphidaeKP938436C20,715 bpND5+ (10,531 bp)884_COI+ (1265 bp)
Pseudocorynactis sp.CorallimorphidaeKP938437C21,239 bpND5+ (18,840 bp)884_COI+ (1177 bp)
Amplexidiscus fenestraferDiscosomatidaeMH308002C20,054 bpND5+ (17,960 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Amplexidiscus fenestraferDiscosomatidaeKP938435C20,188 bpND5+ (18,094 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Discosoma nummiformeDiscosomatidaeKP938434C20,925 bpND5+ (18,791 bp)884_COI+ (1208 bp)
Discosoma sp.DiscosomatidaeDQ643965C20,908 bpND5+ (18,803 bp)884_COI+ (1207 bp)
Discosoma sp.DiscosomatidaeDQ643966C20,912 bpND5+ (19,807 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Discosoma sp.DiscosomatidaeMH308003C20,288 bpND5+ (18,196 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Rhodactis indosinensisDiscosomatidaeKP938438C20,100 bpND5+ (18,013 bp)884_COI+ (1204 bp)
Rhodactis mussoidesDiscosomatidaeKP938439C20,826 bpND5+ (18,721 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Rhodactis sp.DiscosomatidaeDQ640647C20,093 bpND5+ (18,001 bp)884_COI+ (1206 bp)
Ricordea floridaRicordeidaeDQ640648C21,376 bpND5+ (19,247 bp)884_COI+ (1176 bp)
Ricordea yumaRicordeidaeMH308004C21,430 bpND5+ (19,301 bp)884_COI+ (1198 bp)
Ricordea yumaRicordeidaeMH308005C21,566 bpND5+ (19,437 bp)884_COI+ (1198 bp)
Ricordea yumaRicordeidaeKP938441C22,015 bpND5+ (19,886 bp)884_COI+ (1198 bp)
D: Black corals (Order Antipatharia)
Cirrhipathes lutkeni6AntipathidaeJX023266C20,448 bpND5+ (2062 bp)884_COI+ (1439 bp)
Myriopathes japonicaAntipathidaeJX456459C17,733 bpND5+ (1699 bp)884_COI+ (924 bp)
Chrysopathes formosaCladopathidaeDQ304771C18,398 bpND5+ (1932 bp)COI−
E: Stony corals (Order Scleractinia)
Complex clade
Acropora aculeusAcroporidaeKT001202C18,528 bpND5+ (12,116 bp)COI−
Acropora acuminataAcroporidaeLC201815C18,586 bpND5+ (12,175 bp)COI−
Acropora asperaAcroporidaeKF448532C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora austeraAcroporidaeLC201816C18,346 bpND5+ (11,937 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201849C18,478 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201850C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201851C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201852C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201853C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201854C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora awiAcroporidaeLC201855C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora carduusAcroporidaeLC201813C18,373 bpND5+ (11,964 bp)COI−
Acropora carduusAcroporidaeLC201814C18,372 bpND5+ (11,963 bp)COI−
Acropora cythereaAcroporidaeLC201817C18,568 bpND5+ (12,158 bp)COI−
Acropora cythereaAcroporidaeLC201818C18,567 bpND5+ (12,157 bp)COI−
Acropora cythereaAcroporidaeLC201819C18,568 bpND5+ (12,158 bp)COI−
Acropora digitiferaAcroporidaeKF448535C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora divaricataAcroporidaeKF448537C18,481 bpND5+ (12,072 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201820C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201821C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201822C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201823C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201824C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201825C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201826C18,482 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201834C18,481 bpND5+ (12,072 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201835C18,368 bpND5+ (11,959 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201836C18,482 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201837C18,368 bpND5+ (11, 959 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201838C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201839C18,482 bpND5+ (12,073 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201840C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora echinataAcroporidaeLC201841C18,367 bpND5+ (11,958 bp)COI−
Acropora floridaAcroporidaeKF448533C18,365 bpND5+ (11,956 bp)COI−
Acropora floridaAcroporidaeLC201827C18,365 bpND5+ (11,956 bp)COI−
Acropora grandisAcroporidaeLC201828C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora horridaAcroporidaeKF448530C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora humilisAcroporidaeKF448528C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora hyacinthusAcroporidaeKF448531C18,566 bpND5+ (12,157 bp)COI−
Acropora hyacinthusAcroporidaeLC201829C18,567 bpND5+ (12,157 bp)COI−
Acropora hyacinthusAcroporidaeLC201830C18,567 bpND5+ (12,157 bp)COI−
Acropora hyacinthusAcroporidaeLC201831C18,567 bpND5+ (12,157 bp)COI−
Acropora hyacinthusAcroporidaeLC201832C18,568 bpND5+ (12,158 bp)COI−
Acropora intermediaAcroporidaeLC201833C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora microphthalmaAcroporidaeLC201842C18,479 bpND5+ (12,070 bp)COI−
Acropora microphthalmaAcroporidaeLC201843C18,481 bpND5+ (12,072 bp)COI−
Acropora muricataAcroporidaeKF448529C18,481 bpND5+ (12,072 bp)COI−
Acropora muricataAcroporidaeLC201844C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora nasutaAcroporidaeKF448536C18,481 bpND5+ (12,072 bp)COI−
Acropora nasutaAcroporidaeLC201845C18,374 bpND5+ (11,965 bp)COI−
Acropora nasutaAcroporidaeLC201846C18,484 bpND5+ (12,074 bp)COI−
Acropora robustaAcroporidaeKF448538C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora selagoAcroporidaeLC201847C18,482 bpND5+ (12,073 bp)COI−
Acropora selagoAcroporidaeLC201848C18,480 bpND5+ (12,071 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeAF338425C18,338 bpND5+ (11,928 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201856C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201857C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201858C18,343 bpND5+ (11,934 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201859C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201860C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201861C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201862C18,343 bpND5+ (11,934 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201863C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201864C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201865C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201866C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201867C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201868C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201869C18,341 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora tenuisAcroporidaeLC201870C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Acropora validaAcroporidaeMH141598C18,385 bpND5+ (11,976 bp)COI−
Acropora yongeiAcroporidaeKF448534C18,342 bpND5+ (11,933 bp)COI−
Anacropora matthaiAcroporidaeAY903295C17,888 bpND5+ (11,492 bp)COI−
Astreopora explanataAcroporidaeKJ634269C18,106 bpND5+ (11,795 bp)COI−
Astreopora myriophthalmaAcroporidaeKJ634272C18,106 bpND5+ (11,795 bp)COI−
Montipora cactusAcroporidaeAY903296C17,887 bpND5+ (11,485 bp)COI−
Montipora aequituberculataAcroporidaeKU762339C17,886 bpND5+ (11,488 bp)COI−
Montipora efflorescensAcroporidaeMG851914C17,886 bpND5+ (11,491 bp)COI−
Agaricia fragilisAgariciidaeKM051016C18,667 bpND5+ (11,525 bp)COI−
Agaricia humilisAgariciidaeDQ643831C18,735 bpND5+ (11,536 bp)COI−
Pavona clavusAgariciidaeDQ643836C18,315 bpND5+ (11,129 bp)COI−
Pavona decussataAgariciidaeKP231535C18,378 bpND5+ (11,129 bp)COI−
Dendrophyllia arbusculaDendrophyllidaeKR824937C19,069 bpND5+ (11,299 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Dendrophyllia cribrosaDendrophyllidaeJQ290080C19,072 bpND5+ (11,282 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Tubastraea coccineaDendrophyllidaeKX024566C19,094 bpND5+ (11,322 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Tubastraea coccineaDendrophyllidaeJQ290078C19,070 bpND5+ (11,300 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Tubastraea tagusensisDendrophyllidaeKX024567C19,094 bpND5+ (11,324 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Turbinaria peltataDendrophyllidaeKJ725201C18,966 bpND5+ (11,332 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Euphyllia ancoraEuphylliidaeJF825139C18,875 bpND5+ (11,866 bp)COI−
Galaxea fascicularisEuphylliidaeKU159433C18,751 bpND5+ (12,022 bp)COI−
Fungiacyathus stephanusFungiacyathidaeJF825138C19,381 bpND5+ (10,932 bp)COI+ (961 bp)
Alveopora japonicaPoritidaeMG851913C18,144 bpND5+ (11,621 bp)COI−
Alveopora sp.PoritidaeKJ634271C18,146 bpND5+ (11,621 bp)COI−
Goniopora columnaPoritidaeJF825141C18,766 bpND5+ (11,175 bp)884_COI+ (964 bp)
Porites fontanesiiPoritidaeNC_037434C18,658 bpND5+ (11,131 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites harrisoniPoritidaeNC_037435C18,630 bpND5+ (11,133 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites lobataPoritidaeKU572435C18,647 bpND5+ (11,133 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites luteaPoritidaeKU159432C18,646 bpND5+ (11,130 bp)884_COI+ (971 bp)
Porites okinawensisPoritidaeJF825142C18,647 bpND5+ (11,133 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites panamensisPoritidaeKJ546638C18,628 bpND5+ (11,117 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites poritisPoritidaeDQ643837C18,648 bpND5+ (11,135 bp)884_COI+ (965 bp)
Porites rusPoritidaeLN864762C18,647 bpND5+ (11,133 bp)884_COI+ (971 bp)
Pseudosiderastrea formosaSiderastreidaeKP260632C19,475 bpND5+ (11,524 bp)884_COI+ (970 bp)
Pseudosiderastrea tayamiSiderastreidaeKP260633C19,475 bpND5+ (11,524 bp)884_COI+ (970 bp)
Siderastrea radiansSiderastreidaeDQ643838C19,387 bpND5+ (11,463 bp)884_COI+ (988 bp)
Robust clade
Madracis decactisAstrocoeniidaeKX982259C16,970 bpND5+ (10,435 bp)COI−
Madracis mirabilisAstrocoeniidaeEU400212C16,951 bpND5+ (10,415 bp)COI−
Lopheila pertusa7CaryophyllidaeFR821799C16,150 bpND5+ (6460 bp)COI−
Lophelia pertusa7CaryophyllidaeKC875348C16,149 bpND5+ (6460 bp)COI−
Lophelia pertusa7CaryophyllidaeKC875349C16,149 bpND5+ (6460 bp)COI−
Solenosmilia variabilisCaryophyllidaeKM609293C15,968 bpND5+ (6459 bp)COI−
Solenosmilia variabilisCaryophyllidaeKM609294C15,968 bpND5+ (6459 bp)COI−
Colpopyllia natansFlaviidaeDQ643833C16,906 bpND5+ (10,445 bp)COI−
Plesiastrea versiporaFlaviidaeMH025639C15,320 bpND5+ (9398 bp)COI−
Echinophyllia asperaLobophylliidaeMG792550C17,697 bpND5+ (10,136 bp)720_COI+ (1077 bp)
Sclerophyllia maxima8LobophylliidaeFO904931C18,168 bpND5+ (10,760 bp)720_COI+ (1074 bp)
Dipsastraea rotumanaMerulinidaeMH119077C16,466 bpND5+ (10,149 bp)COI−
Flavites halicoraMerulinidaeMH794283C17,033 bpND5+ (11,150 bp)COI−
Hydnopora exesaMerulinidaeMH086217C17,790 bpND5+ (10,243 bp)COI−
Orbicella annularisMerulinidaeAP008973C16,138 bpND5+ (9540 bp)COI−
Orbicella annularisMerulinidaeAP008974C16,138 bpND5+ (9540 bp)COI−
Orbicella faveolataMerulinidaeAP008977C16,138 bpND5+ (9540 bp)COI−
Orbicella faveolataMerulinidaeAP008978C16,138 bpND5+ (9540 bp)COI−
Orbicella franksiMerulinidaeAP008975C16,138 bpND5+ (9540 bp)COI−
Orbicella franksiMerulinidaeAP008976C16,137 bpND5+ (9539 bp)COI−
Polycyathus sp.MerulinidaeJF825140C15,357 bpND5+ (9438 bp)COI−
Platygyra carnosaMerulinidaeJX911333C16,463 bpND5+ (10,164 bp)COI−
Mussa angulosaMussidaeDQ643834C17,245 bpND5+ (10,636 bp)COI−
Madrepora oculataOculinidaeJX236041C15,841 bpND5+ (10,140 bp)COI−
Pocillopora damicornisPocilloporidaeEU400213C17,425 bpND5+ (10,864 bp)COI−
Pocillopora damicornisPocilloporidaeEF526302C17,415 bpND5+ (10,863 bp)COI−
Pocillopora eydouxiPocilloporidaeEF526303C17,422 bpND5+ (10,863 bp)COI−
Seriatopora caliendrumPocilloporidaeEF633601C17,010 bpND5+ (10,467 bp)COI−
Seriatopora hystrixPocilloporidaeEF633600C17,059 bpND5+ (10,465 bp)COI−
Stylophora pistillataPocilloporidaeEU400214C17,177 bpND5+ (10,583 bp)COI−
Astrangia sp.RhizangiidaeDQ643832C14,853 bpND5+ (9258 bp)COI−

Appendix Table 1.

Key features of group I introns in hexacoral mitogenomes.

Size of mitochondrial genome. C, completely sequenced; P, partial/almost completely sequenced.

Size of ND5-717 group I intron.

Size of COI group I intron. COI−, no COI intron present; 720, 867, or 884 introns indicated.

The sea anemone Aiptasia pulcella may also be annotated as Exaiptasia pallida.

Information from our unpublished complete mitochondtial genome sequence of Stichodactyla helianthus.

The black coral Cirrhipathes lutkeni may also be annotated as Strichpates lutkeni.

The stony coral Lophelia pertusa may also be annotated as Desmophyllum pertusum.

The stony coral Sclerophyllia maxima may also be annotated as Acanthastrea maxima.


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Written By

Steinar Daae Johansen and Åse Emblem

Submitted: October 29th, 2019 Reviewed: February 3rd, 2020 Published: March 7th, 2020