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Biol Lett. 2009 Jun 23;5(3):413-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0662. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Mitochondrial whims: metabolic rate, longevity and the rate of molecular evolution.

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  • 1Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, CNRS UMR 5554, UniversitĂ© Montpellier 2, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier, France. galtier@univ-montp2.fr


The evolutionary rate of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is highly variable across lineages in animals, and particularly in mammals. This variation has been interpreted as reflecting variations in metabolic rate: mitochondrial respiratory activity would tend to generate mutagenic agents, thus increasing the mutation rate. Here we review recent evidence suggesting that a direct, mechanical effect of species metabolic rate on mtDNA evolutionary rate is unlikely. We suggest that natural selection could act to reduce the (somatic) mtDNA mutation rate in long-lived species, in agreement with the mitochondrial theory of ageing.

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