Surprising mtDNA diversity

Mitochondrial genomes are not uniform across cells of the body as previously believed, but vary between different tissue types, according to a study published online today (March 3) in Nature. Image: Wikimedia commons, NationalHuman Genome Research InstituteThe findings may affect forensics and the search for biomarkers, both of which utilize mitochondrial DNA. "I was surprised," said molecular cell biologist linkurl:Hans Spelbrink;http://www.uta.fi/imt/finmit/hanslab/ of the University of Tam

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Mar 2, 2010
Mitochondrial genomes are not uniform across cells of the body as previously believed, but vary between different tissue types, according to a study published online today (March 3) in Nature.
Image: Wikimedia commons, National
Human Genome Research Institute
The findings may affect forensics and the search for biomarkers, both of which utilize mitochondrial DNA. "I was surprised," said molecular cell biologist linkurl:Hans Spelbrink;http://www.uta.fi/imt/finmit/hanslab/ of the University of Tampere, Finland, who was not involved in the research. "Mostly the assumption is that from the start of life individuals are homoplasmic," meaning that within an individual, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the same. However, the results of this study demonstrate "that each individual is a mosaic of multiple [mt]DNA types in various frequencies in different tissues," he said. Previous studies have documented some degree of heteroplasmy -- variation in mtDNA in an individual -- but these findings were limited and mostly restricted...
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