The mitochondrial D-loop region of the pig, Sus scrofa, was found to be several hundred base pairs larger than the corresponding region in cow, a related artiodactyl species, primarily because of an insertion containing the tandemly repeated sequence CGTGCGTACA. Porcine mitochondrial DNA from the tissue of a single animal exhibits a large population of length polymorphs, each member of which may have as few as 14 or as many as 29 of these repeat units. This intracellular variability may be due to the repeated and self-complementary properties of this sequence, which would favor mispairing and lead to replication slippage. The repeat domain is unusual in that symmetry properties suggest it may assume alternative conformations including cruciforms and left-handed (Z) DNA. It also appears to be the longest known, naturally occurring, alternating purine-pyrimidine sequence. In order to understand the functional significance of this heteroplasmic domain that potentially disrupts a key regulatory region in the mitochondrial genome, RNA and DNA mapping studies were conducted which located this region between the H-strand replication origin and the putative L-strand transcriptional start site. H-strand RNA analysis demonstrated that this heteroplasmic region is transcribed and, therefore, that priming for H-strand DNA replication in mitochondria is independent of the primer RNA length or secondary structure.