The maternal inheritance of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in eukaryotic organisms occurs because of the selective destruction of paternal mtDNA molecules that may be present in the zygote. The elimination of sperm mtDNA is less efficient in interspecific crosses, and biparental inheritance of mtDNA has been observed in a variety of species. Because interspecific crosses are likely to be extremely rare in nature, parental inheritance of mtDNA has been deemed of little relevance to population genetics. The mtDNA of the parasitic trematode Schistosoma mansoni was examined for its utility in addressing epidemiological questions related to the transmission and spread of schistosomiasis. Prior to embarking on such experiments, we sought to confirm the mode of inheritance of this molecule using the highly polymorphic mtDNA minisatellite as a marker. In 3 separate crosses, mtDNA apparently identical to paternal DNA was observed in some individuals of the F2 and F3 generations. These observations thus suggest the intraspecific paternal inheritance of mtDNA across multiple generations in Schistosoma mansoni.

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