We determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the mitochondrial (mt) genome of an endangered Japanese frog, Odorrana ishikawae (family Ranidae). We also sequenced partial mt genomes of three other Odorrana and six ranid species to survey the diversity of genomic organizations and elucidate the phylogenetic problems remaining in this frog family. The O. ishikawae mt genome contained the 37 mt genes and single control region (CR) typically found in vertebrate mtDNAs, but the region of Light-strand replication origin (OL) was triplicated in this species. Four protein-encoding genes (atp6, nd2, nd3, and nd5) were found to have high sequence divergence and to be usable for population genetics studies on this endangered species. Among the surveyed ranids, only two species (Rana and Lithobates) manifested the typical neobatrachian-type mt gene arrangement. In contrast, relatively large gene rearrangements were found in Amolops, Babina, and Staurois species; and translocations of single tRNA genes (trns) were observed in Glandirana and Odorrana species. Though the inter-generic and interspecific relationships of ranid taxa remain to be elucidated based on 12S and 16S rrn sequence data, some of the derived mt gene orders were found to have synapomorphic features useful for solving problematic ranid phylogenies. The tandem duplication and random loss (TDRL) model, the traditional model for mt gene rearrangement, failed to easily explain several of the mt gene rearrangements observed here. Indeed, the recent recombination-based gene rearrangement models seemed to be more suitable for this purpose. The high frequency of gene translocations involving a specific trn block (trnH-trnS1) and several single tRNA genes suggest that there may be a retrotranslocation in ranid mt genomes.
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