In most eukaryotes the subunit 2 of cytochrome c oxidase (COX2) is encoded in intact mitochondrial genes. Some green algae, however, exhibit split cox2 genes (cox2a and cox2b) encoding two polypeptides (COX2A and COX2B) that form a heterodimeric COX2 subunit. Here, we analyzed the distribution of intact and split cox2 gene sequences in 39 phylogenetically diverse green algae in phylum Chlorophyta obtained from databases (28 sequences from 22 taxa) and from new cox2 data generated in this work (23 sequences from 18 taxa). Our results support previous observations based on a smaller number of taxa, indicating that algae in classes Prasinophyceae, Ulvophyceae, and Trebouxiophyceae contain orthodox, intact mitochondrial cox2 genes. In contrast, all of the algae in Chlorophyceae that we examined exhibited split cox2 genes, and could be separated into two groups: one that has a mitochondrion-localized cox2a gene and a nucleus-localized cox2b gene ("Scenedesmus-like"), and another that has both cox2a and cox2b genes in the nucleus ("Chlamydomonas-like"). The location of the split cox2a and cox2b genes was inferred using five different criteria: differences in amino acid sequences, codon usage (mitochondrial vs. nuclear), codon preference (third position frequencies), presence of nucleotide sequences encoding mitochondrial targeting sequences and presence of spliceosomal introns. Distinct green algae could be grouped according to the form of cox2 gene they contain: intact or fragmented, mitochondrion- or nucleus-localized, and intron-containing or intron-less. We present a model describing the events that led to mitochondrial cox2 gene fragmentation and the independent and sequential migration of cox2a and cox2b genes to the nucleus in chlorophycean green algae. We also suggest that the distribution of the different forms of the cox2 gene provides important insights into the phylogenetic relationships among major groups of Chlorophyceae. (c) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.