Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Thousands of mitochondrial genomes have been sequenced, but there are comparatively few available mitochondrial transcriptomes. This might soon be changing. High-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) techniques have made it fast and cheap to generate massive amounts of mitochondrial transcriptomic data. Here, we explore the utility of RNA-Seq for assembling mitochondrial genomes and studying their expression patterns. Specifically, we investigate the mitochondrial transcriptomes from Polytomella non-photosynthetic green algae, which have among the smallest, most reduced mitochondrial genomes from the Archaeplastida as well as fragmented rRNA-coding regions, palindromic genes, and linear chromosomes with telomeres. Isolation of whole genomic RNA from the four known Polytomella species followed by Illumina paired-end sequencing generated enough mitochondrial-derived reads to easily recover almost-entire mitochondrial genome sequences. Read-mapping and coverage statistics also gave insights into Polytomella mitochondrial transcriptional architecture, revealing polycistronic transcripts and the expression of telomeres and palindromic genes. Ultimately, RNA-Seq is a promising, cost-effective technique for studying mitochondrial genetics, but it does have drawbacks, which are discussed. One of its greatest potentials, as shown here, is that it can be used to generate near-complete mitochondrial genome sequences, which could be particularly useful in situations where there is a lack of available mtDNA data.