Mitochondrial genome diversity in closely related species provides an excellent platform for investigation of chromosome architecture and its evolution by means of comparative genomics. In this study, we determined the complete mitochondrial DNA sequences of eight Candida species and analyzed their molecular architectures. Our survey revealed a puzzling variability of genome architecture, including circular-and linear-mapping and multipartite linear forms. We propose that the arrangement of large inverted repeats identified in these genomes plays a crucial role in alterations of their molecular architectures. In specific arrangements, the inverted repeats appear to function as resolution elements, allowing genome conversion among different topologies, eventually leading to genome fragmentation into multiple linear DNA molecules. We suggest that molecular transactions generating linear mitochondrial DNA molecules with defined telomeric structures may parallel the evolutionary emergence of linear chromosomes and multipartite genomes in general and may provide clues for the origin of telomeres and pathways implicated in their maintenance.
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