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      The dynamics of mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy: implications for human health and disease

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      Nature Reviews Genetics
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Common genetic variants of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) increase the risk of developing several of the major health issues facing the western world, including neurodegenerative diseases. In this Review, we consider how these mtDNA variants arose and how they spread from their origin on one single molecule in a single cell to be present at high levels throughout a specific organ and, ultimately, to contribute to the population risk of common age-related disorders. mtDNA persists in all aerobic eukaryotes, despite a high substitution rate, clonal propagation and little evidence of recombination. Recent studies have found that de novo mtDNA mutations are suppressed in the female germ line; despite this, mtDNA heteroplasmy is remarkably common. The demonstration of a mammalian mtDNA genetic bottleneck explains how new germline variants can increase to high levels within a generation, and the ultimate fixation of less-severe mutations that escape germline selection explains how they can contribute to the risk of late-onset disorders.

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          Natural selection shaped regional mtDNA variation in humans.

          Human mtDNA shows striking regional variation, traditionally attributed to genetic drift. However, it is not easy to account for the fact that only two mtDNA lineages (M and N) left Africa to colonize Eurasia and that lineages A, C, D, and G show a 5-fold enrichment from central Asia to Siberia. As an alternative to drift, natural selection might have enriched for certain mtDNA lineages as people migrated north into colder climates. To test this hypothesis we analyzed 104 complete mtDNA sequences from all global regions and lineages. African mtDNA variation did not significantly deviate from the standard neutral model, but European, Asian, and Siberian plus Native American variations did. Analysis of amino acid substitution mutations (nonsynonymous, Ka) versus neutral mutations (synonymous, Ks) (kaks) for all 13 mtDNA protein-coding genes revealed that the ATP6 gene had the highest amino acid sequence variation of any human mtDNA gene, even though ATP6 is one of the more conserved mtDNA proteins. Comparison of the kaks ratios for each mtDNA gene from the tropical, temperate, and arctic zones revealed that ATP6 was highly variable in the mtDNAs from the arctic zone, cytochrome b was particularly variable in the temperate zone, and cytochrome oxidase I was notably more variable in the tropics. Moreover, multiple amino acid changes found in ATP6, cytochrome b, and cytochrome oxidase I appeared to be functionally significant. From these analyses we conclude that selection may have played a role in shaping human regional mtDNA variation and that one of the selective influences was climate.
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            Deletions of muscle mitochondrial DNA in patients with mitochondrial myopathies.

            In vitro studies of muscle mitochondrial metabolism in patients with mitochondrial myopathy have identified a variety of functional defects of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, predominantly affecting complex I (NADH-CoQ reductase) or complex III (ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase) in adult cases. These two enzymes consist of approximately 36 subunits, eight of which are encoded by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The increased incidence of maternal, as opposed to paternal, transmission in familial mitochondrial myopathy suggests that these disorders may be caused by mutations of mtDNA. Multiple restriction endonuclease analysis of leukocyte mtDNA from patients with the disease, and their relatives, showed no differences in cleavage patterns between affected and unaffected individuals in any single maternal line. When muscle mtDNA was studied, nine of 25 patients were found to have two populations of muscle mtDNA, one of which had deletions of up to 7 kilobases in length. These observations demonstrate that mtDNA heteroplasmy can occur in man and that human disease may be associated with defects of the mitochondrial genome.
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              Molecular Poltergeists: Mitochondrial DNA Copies (numts) in Sequenced Nuclear Genomes

              The natural transfer of DNA from mitochondria to the nucleus generates nuclear copies of mitochondrial DNA (numts) and is an ongoing evolutionary process, as genome sequences attest. In humans, five different numts cause genetic disease and a dozen human loci are polymorphic for the presence of numts, underscoring the rapid rate at which mitochondrial sequences reach the nucleus over evolutionary time. In the laboratory and in nature, numts enter the nuclear DNA via non-homolgous end joining (NHEJ) at double-strand breaks (DSBs). The frequency of numt insertions among 85 sequenced eukaryotic genomes reveal that numt content is strongly correlated with genome size, suggesting that the numt insertion rate might be limited by DSB frequency. Polymorphic numts in humans link maternally inherited mitochondrial genotypes to nuclear DNA haplotypes during the past, offering new opportunities to associate nuclear markers with mitochondrial markers back in time.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Reviews Genetics
                Nat Rev Genet
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1471-0056
                1471-0064
                September 2015
                August 18 2015
                September 2015
                : 16
                : 9
                : 530-542
                Article
                10.1038/nrg3966
                26281784
                510ecc10-6158-4a8b-83d4-b5deca11b8de
                © 2015

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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