Random intracellular drift explains the clonal expansion of mitochondrial DNA mutations with age.

Elson JL, Samuels DC, Turnbull DM, Chinnery PF
Am J Hum Genet. 2001 68 (3): 802-6

PMID: 11179029 · PMCID: PMC1274494 · DOI:10.1086/318801

Human tissues acquire somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations with age. Very high levels of specific mtDNA mutations accumulate within individual cells, causing a defect of mitochondrial oxidative metabolism. This is a fundamental property of nondividing tissues, but it is not known how it comes about. To explore this problem, we developed a model of mtDNA replication within single human cells. Using this model, we show that relaxed replication of mtDNA alone can lead, through random genetic drift, to the clonal expansion of single mutant events during human life. Significant expansions primarily develop from mutations acquired during a critical period in childhood or early adult life.

MeSH Terms (13)

Adult Aging Child DNA, Mitochondrial DNA Replication Founder Effect Gene Frequency Humans Mitochondria Models, Genetic Mutation Oxidative Phosphorylation Probability

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