The structure and evolution of the plant mitochondrial genome may allow recurrent appearance of the same mitochondrial variants in different populations. Whether the same mitochondrial variant is distributed by migration or appears recurrently by mutation (creating homoplasy) in different populations is an important question with regard to the use of these markers for population genetic analyses. The genetic association observed between chloroplasts and mitochondria (i.e. two maternally inherited cytoplasmic genomes) may indicate whether or not homoplasy occurs in the mitochondrial genome. Four-hundred and fourteen individuals sampled in wild populations of beets from France and Spain were screened for their mitochondrial and chloroplast polymorphisms. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphism was investigated with restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) polymorphism was investigated with polymerase chain reaction PCR–RFLP, using universal primers for the amplification. Twenty and 13 variants for mtDNA and cpDNA were observed, respectively. Most exhibited a widespread geographical distribution. As a very strong linkage disequilibrium was estimated between mtDNA and cpDNA haplotypes, a high rate of recurrent mutation was excluded for the mitochondrial genome of beets. Identical mitochondrial variants found in populations of different regions probably occurred as a result of migration. We concluded from this study that mtDNA is a tool as valuable as cpDNA when a maternal marker is needed for population genetics analyses in beet on a large regional scale.
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