Mitochondrial DNA sequences are frequently transferred to the nucleus giving rise to the so-called nuclear mitochondrial DNA (NUMT). Analysis of 13 eukaryotic species with sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear genomes reveals a large interspecific variation of NUMT number and size. Copy number ranges from none or few copies in Anopheles, Caenorhabditis, Plasmodium, Drosophila, and Fugu to more than 500 in human, rice, and Arabidopsis. The average size is between 62 (baker’s yeast) and 647 bps (Neurospora), respectively. A correlation between the abundance of NUMTs and the size of the nuclear or the mitochondrial genomes, or of the nuclear gene density, is not evident. Other factors, such as the number and/or stability of mitochondria in the germline, or species-specific mechanisms controlling accumulation/loss of nuclear DNA, might be responsible for the interspecific diversity in NUMT accumulation.
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