Ribosomal DNA is commonly used as a marker for protist phylogeny and taxonomy because of its ubiquity and its expected species specificity thanks to the mechanism of concerted evolution. However, numerous studies reported the occurrence of intragenomic (intra-individual) polymorphism in various protists and particularly in Foraminifera. To infer to what extent the SSU rDNA intragenomic variability occurs in Foraminifera, we studied 16 foraminiferal species belonging to single-chambered monothalamids and multi-chambered Globothalamea, with one to six individuals per species. We performed single-cell DNA extractions and PCRs of a 600bp fragment of SSU rDNA, and sequenced 9 to 23 clones per individual for a total of 818 sequences. We found intragenomic variability in almost all species, even after excluding singleton mutations. Intra-individual sequence divergence ranged from 0 to 5.15% and was higher than 1% in 11 species. Variability was usually located at the end of stem-loop structures and included compensatory single nucleotide polymorphisms and expansion segments polymorphisms. However, the polymorphisms did not change the secondary structure of the rRNA. Our results suggest a non-concerted evolution of rRNA genes in Foraminifera. The origin of this variability and its implications for species identification in environmental DNA studies are discussed.
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