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Am J Hum Genet. 1995 Aug;57(2):239-47.

Rearranged mitochondrial genomes are present in human oocytes.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, USA.


Using quantitative PCR, we have determined that a human oocyte contains approximately 100,000 mitochondrial genomes (mtDNAs). We have also found that some oocytes harbor measurable levels (up to 0.1%) of the so-called common deletion, an mtDNA molecule containing a 4,977-bp rearrangement that is present in high amounts in many patients with "sporadic" Kearns-Sayre syndrome (KSS) and progressive external ophthalmoplegia (PEO). This is the first demonstration that rearranged mtDNAs are present in human oocytes, and it provides experimental support for the supposition that pathogenic deletions associated with the ontogeny of sporadic KSS and PEO can be transmitted in the female germ line, from mother to child. The relevance of these finding to the accumulation of extremely low levels of deleted mtDNAs in both somatic and germ-line tissues during normal human aging is also discussed.

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