In animals, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) inheritance is predominantly maternal. In a few cases incidental transmission of paternal mtDNA was observed and estimated to account for only 10(-4)-10(-3) of an individual's mtDNA content. In contrast, biparental inheritance is common in mussels of the genus Mytilus. Here we present direct evidence that sex and mtDNA inheritance are coupled in Mytilus. Females inherit mtDNA only from their mother, but they transmit it to both daughters and sons. Males inherit mtDNA from both parents, but they transmit to sons only the mtDNA they inherited from their father. In pair matings, this mtDNA inheritance pattern is associated with a strong sex-ratio bias. These findings establish a newly discovered type of cytoplasmic DNA transmission. We also present evidence that the phenomenon breaks down in interspecific hybrids.
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