The transfer of ancestral plastid genomes into mitochondrial genomes to generate mitochondrial plastid DNA (MTPT) is known to occur in plants, but its impacts on mitochondrial genome complexity and the potential for causing a false-positive DNA barcoding paradox have been underestimated. Here, we assembled the organelle genomes of Cynanchum wilfordii and C. auriculatum, which are indigenous medicinal herbs in Korea and China, respectively. In both species, it is estimated that 35% of the ancestral plastid genomes were transferred to mitochondrial genomes over the past 10 million years and remain conserved in these genomes. Some plastid barcoding markers co-amplified the conserved MTPTs and caused a barcoding paradox, resulting in mis-authentication of botanical ingredients and/or taxonomic mis-positioning. We identified dynamic and lineage-specific MTPTs that have contributed to mitochondrial genome complexity and might cause a putative barcoding paradox across 81 plant species. We suggest that a DNA barcoding guidelines should be developed involving the use of multiple markers to help regulate economically motivated adulteration.
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