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J Biol Chem. 1981 May 25;256(10):5109-15.

Mechanism of replication of human mitochondrial DNA. Localization of the 5' ends of nascent daughter strands.


Human mitochondrial DNA contains two physically separate and distinct origins of DNA replication. The initiation of each strand (heavy and light) occurs at a unique site and elongation proceeds unidirectionally. Animal mitochondrial DNA is novel in that short nascent strands are maintained at one origin (D-loop) in a significant percentage of the molecules. In the case of human mitochondrial DNA, there are three distinct D-loop heavy strands differing in length at the 5' end. We report here the localization of the 5' ends of nascent daughter heavy strands originating from the D-loop region. Analyses of the map positions of 5' ends relative to known restriction endonuclease cleavage sites and 5' end nucleotides indicate that the points of initiation of D-loop synthesis and actual daughter strands are the same. In contrast, the second origin is located two-thirds of the way around the genome where light strand synthesis is presumably initiated on a single-stranded template. Mapping of 5' ends of daughter light strands at this origin relative to known restriction endonuclease cleavage sites reveals two distinct points of initiation separated by 37 nucleotides. This origin is in the same relative genomic position and shows a high degree of DNA sequence homology to that of mouse mitochondrial DNA. In both cases, the DNA region within and immediately flanking the origin of DNA replication contains five tightly clustered tRNA genes. A major portion of the pronounced DNA template secondary structure at this origin includes the known tDNA sequences.

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