Thursday, December 16, 2010


mtDNA is particularly susceptible to reactive oxygen species generated by the respiratory chain due to its close proximity. Though mtDNA is packaged by proteins and harbors significant DNA repair capacity, these protective functions are less robust than those operating on nuclear DNA and therefore thought to contribute to enhanced susceptibility of mtDNA to oxidative damage.

[edit] Genetic illness
Further information: Mitochondrial disease
Mutations of mitochondrial DNA can lead to a number of illnesses including exercise intolerance and Kearns-Sayre syndrome (KSS), which causes a person to lose full function of heart, eye, and muscle movements. Some evidence suggests that they might be major contributors to the aging process and age-associated pathologies.[17]

[edit] Use in identification
In humans, mitochondrial DNA spans 16,569 DNA building blocks (base pairs),[18] representing a fraction of the total DNA in cells. Unlike nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents and in which genes are rearranged in the process of recombination, there is usually no change in mtDNA from parent to offspring. Although mtDNA also recombines, it does so with copies of itself within the same mitochondrion. Because of this and because the mutation rate of animal mtDNA is higher than that of nuclear DNA,[19] mtDNA is a powerful tool for tracking ancestry through females (matrilineage) and has been used in this role to track the ancestry of many species back hundreds of generations.

Human mtDNA can also be used to help identify individuals.[20] Forensic laboratories occasionally use mtDNA comparison to identify human remains, and especially to identify older unidentified skeletal remains. Although unlike nuclear DNA, mtDNA is not specific to one individual, it can be used in combination with other evidence (anthropological evidence, circumstantial evidence, and the like) to establish identification. mtDNA is also used to exclude possible matches between missing persons and unidentified remains.[21] Many researchers believe that mtDNA is better suited to identification of older skeletal remains than nuclear DNA because the greater number of copies of mtDNA per cell increases the chance of obtaining a useful sample, and because a match with a living relative is possible even if numerous maternal generations separate the two. American outlaw Jesse James's remains were identified using a comparison between mtDNA extracted from his remains and the mtDNA of the son of the female-line great-granddaughter of his sister.[22] Similarly, the remains of Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse), last Empress of Russia, and her children were identified by comparison of their mitochondrial DNA with that of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose maternal grandmother was Alexandra’s sister Victoria of Hesse.[23] Similarly to identify Emperor Nicholas II remains his mitochondrial DNA was compared with that of James Carnegie, 3rd Duke of Fife, whose maternal great-grandmother Alexandra of Denmark (Queen Alexandra) was sister of Nicholas II mother Dagmar of Denmark (Empress Maria Feodorovna).[24]

The low effective population size and rapid mutation rate (in animals) makes mtDNA useful for assessing genetic relationships of individuals or groups within a species and also for identifying and quantifying the phylogeny (evolutionary relationships; see phylogenetics) among different species, provided they are not too distantly related. To do this, biologists determine and then compare the mtDNA sequences from different individuals or species. Data from the comparisons is used to construct a network of relationships among the sequences, which provides an estimate of the relationships among the individuals or species from which the mtDNAs were taken. This approach has limits that are imposed by the rate of mtDNA sequence change. In animals, the high mutation rate makes mtDNA most useful for comparisons of individuals within species and for comparisons of species that are closely or moderately-closely related, among which the number of sequence differences can be easily counted. As the species become more distantly related, the number of sequence differences becomes very large; changes begin to accumulate on changes until an accurate count becomes impossible.

[edit] History
Mitochondrial DNA was discovered in the 1960s by Margit M. K. Nass and Sylvan Nass by electron microscopy as DNase-sensitive thread inside mitochondria,[25] and by Ellen Haslbrunner, Hans Tuppy and Gottfried Schatz by biochemical assays on highly purified mitochondrial fractions.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, ATP. Most other DNA present in eukaryotic organisReplication
mtDNA is replicated by the DNA polymerase gamma complex which is composed of a 140 kDa catalytic DNA polymerase encoded by the POLG gene and a 55 kDa accessory subunit encoded by the POLG2 gene. During embryogenesis, replication of mtDNA is strictly down-regulated from the fertilized oocyte through the preimplantation embryo.[2] At the blastocyst stage, the onset of mtDNA replication is specific to the cells of the trophectoderm.[2] In contrast, the cells of the inner cell mass restrict mtDNA replication until they receive the signals to differentiate to specific cell types.[2]

[edit] Origin
Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA are thought to be of separate evolutionary origin, with the mtDNA being derived from the circular genomes of the bacteria that were engulfed by the early ancestors of today's eukaryotic cells. This theory is called the endosymbiotic theory. Each mitochondrion is estimated to contain 2-10 mtDNA copies.[3] In the cells of extant organisms, the vast majority of the proteins present in the mitochondria (numbering approximately 1500 different types in mammals) are coded for by nuclear DNA, but the genes for some of them, if not most, are thought to have originally been of bacterial origin, having since been transferred to the eukaryotic nucleus during evolution.

[edit] Mitochondrial inheritance
In most multicellular organisms, mtDNA is inherited from the mother (maternally inherited). Mechanisms for this include simple dilution (an egg contains 100,000 to 1,000,000 mtDNA molecules, whereas a sperm contains only 100 to 1000), degradation of sperm mtDNA in the fertilized egg, and, at least in a few organisms, failure of sperm mtDNA to enter the egg. Whatever the mechanism, this single parent (uniparental) pattern of mtDNA inheritance is found in most animals, most plants and in fungi as well.

[edit] Female inheritance
In sexual reproduction, mitochondria are normally inherited exclusively from the mother. The mitochondria in mammalian sperm are usually destroyed by the egg cell after fertilization. Also, most mitochondria are present at the base of the sperm's tail, which is used for propelling the sperm cells. Sometimes the tail is lost during fertilization. In 1999 it was reported that paternal sperm mitochondria (containing mtDNA) are marked with ubiquitin to select them for later destruction inside the embryo.[4] Some in vitro fertilization techniques, particularly injecting a sperm into an oocyte, may interfere with this.

The fact that mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited enables researchers to trace maternal lineage far back in time. (Y chromosomal DNA, paternally inherited, is used in an analogous way to trace the agnate lineage.) This is accomplished in humans by sequencing one or more of the hypervariable control regions (HVR1 or HVR2) of the mitochondrial DNA, as with a genealogical DNA test. HVR1 consists of about 440 base pairs. These 440 base pairs are then compared to the control regions of other individuals (either specific people or subjects in a database) to determine maternal lineage. Most often, the comparison is made to the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence. VilĂ  et al. have published studies tracing the matrilineal descent of domestic dogs to wolves.[5] The concept of the Mitochondrial Eve is based on the same type of analysis, attempting to discover the origin of humanity by tracking the lineage back in time.

Because mtDNA is not highly conserved and has a rapid mutation rate, it is useful for studying the evolutionary relationships - phylogeny - of organisms. Biologists can determine and then compare mtDNA sequences among different species and use the comparisons to build an evolutionary tree for the species examined.

Because mtDNA is transmitted from mother to child (both male and female), it can be a useful tool in genealogical research into a person's maternal line.
ms is found in the cell nucleus.

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