BackgroundIncreased contamination of European and Asian wheat and barley crops with “emerging” mycotoxins such as enniatins or beauvericin, produced by Fusarium avenaceum and Fusarium tricinctum, suggest that these phylogenetically close species could be involved in future food-safety crises.ResultsThe mitochondrial genomes of F. tricinctum strain INRA104 and F. avenaceum strain FaLH27 have been annotated. A comparative analysis was carried out then extended to a set of 25 wild strains. Results show that they constitute two distinct species, easily distinguished by their mitochondrial sequences. The mitochondrial genetic variability is mainly located within the intergenic regions. Marks of variations show they have evolved (i) by Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), (ii) by length variations mediated by insertion/deletion sequences (Indels), and (iii) by length mutations generated by DNA sliding events occurring in mononucleotide (A)n or (T)n microsatellite type sequences arranged in a peculiar palindromic organization. The optionality of these palindromes between both species argues for their mobility. The presence of Indels and SNPs in palindrome neighbouring regions suggests their involvement in these observed variations. Moreover, the intraspecific and interspecific variations in the presence/absence of group I introns suggest a high mobility, resulting from several events of gain and loss during short evolution periods. Phylogenetic analyses of intron orthologous sequences suggest that most introns could have originated from lateral transfers from phylogenetically close or distant species belonging to various Ascomycota genera and even to the Basidiomycota fungal division.ConclusionsMitochondrial genome evolution between F. tricinctum and F. avenaceum is mostly driven by two types of mobile genetic elements, implicated in genome polymorphism. The first one is represented by group I introns. Indeed, both genomes harbour optional (inter- or intra-specifically) group I introns, all carrying putatively functional hegs, arguing for a high mobility of these introns during short evolution periods. The gain events were shown to involve, for most of them, lateral transfers between phylogenetically distant species. This study has also revealed a new type of mobile genetic element constituted by a palindromic arrangement of (A) n and (T) n microsatellite sequences whose presence was related to occurrence of SNPs and Indels in the neighbouring regions.