Received December 26, 2011
The phenomenon of interspecific hybridization accompanied by transfer of the mitochondrial genome from the northern red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rutilus) to the bank vole (Cl. glareolus) in northeastern Europe is well known already for 25 years. However, the possibility of recombination between homologous segments of maternal and paternal mtDNAs of the voles during fertilization was not previously studied. Analysis of data on variability of nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial gene for cytochrome b in populations of red-backed and bank voles in the area of their sympatry has shown that as a result of interspecific hybridization, the mitochondrial gene pool of bank voles contains not only mtDNA haplotypes of red-backed vole females, but also mtDNA haplotypes of bank voles bearing short nucleotide tracts of red-backed vole mtDNA. This finding supports the hypothesis that an incomplete elimination of red-backed vole paternal mtDNA during the interspecific hybridization between bank vole females and red-backed vole males leads to the gene conversion of bank vole maternal mtDNA tracts by homologous ones of mtDNA of red-backed vole males.
KEY WORDS: mitochondrial genome, interspecific hybridization, gene conversion, voles