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Hum Mol Genet. 1997 Aug;6(8):1251-60.

Behaviour of a population of partially duplicated mitochondrial DNA molecules in cell culture: segregation, maintenance and recombination dependent upon nuclear background.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pathology, University of Dundee, Ninewells Medical School, UK.


We have studied the dynamics of mitochondrial DNA maintenance and segregation in human cells using serial cybrid transfer of partially duplicated mitochondrial DNA, from a mitochondrial myopathy patient, to two distinct recipient cell types. The results indicate two radically different outcomes dependent upon nuclear background. In one case (lung carcinoma) there is systematic loss of the partial duplication by an implied recombinational mechanism. In another nuclear background (osteosarcoma) the duplicated molecules can survive, having only a marginal effect on mitochondrial respiratory function. Moreover, in the osteosarcoma nuclear background further disturbances of mtDNA maintenance frequently follow from cybrid transfer. These are progressive, catastrophic loss of mtDNA and further rearrangement to generate partially triplicated molecules. The results imply differential expression of nuclear genes regulating mtDNA copy number, replication and recombination in different human cell types.

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