Mitochondrial DNA insertions in the nuclear horse genome
Summary The insertion of mitochondrial DNA in the nuclear genome generates numts, nuclear sequences of mitochondrial origin. In the horse reference genome, we identified 82 numts and showed that the entire horse mitochondrial DNA is represented as numts without gross bias. Numts were inserted in the horse nuclear genome at random sites and were probably generated during the repair of DNA double-strand breaks. We then analysed 12 numt loci in 20 unrelated horses and found that null alleles, lacking the mitochondrial DNA insertion, were present at six of these loci. At some loci, the null allele is prevalent in the sample analysed, suggesting that, in the horse population, the number of numt loci may be higher than 82 present in the reference genome. Contrary to humans, the insertion polymorphism of numts is extremely frequent in the horse population, supporting the hypothesis that the genome of this species is in a rapidly evolving state.