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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Feb 15;291(1):8-16.

Mitochondrial genome content is regulated during nematode development.

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Canadian Institutes of Health Research Group in the Molecular Biology of Membrane Proteins, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H7, Canada.


Growth and development rely on the mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) as the major source of ATP. We measured the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number of each of the Caenorhabditis elegans developmental stages. Embryos, L1, L2, and L3 larvae all have approximately 25,000 copies of maternally derived mtDNA. The copy number increases fivefold in L4 larvae and a further sixfold in adult hermaphrodites, but only twofold in adult males. The majority of mtDNA in adult worms is germline associated, and germline-deficient mutants show markedly reduced mtDNA contents. With sperm-deficient or oocyte-deficient mutants, we confirm that mtDNA amplification is primarily associated with oocyte production. When mtDNA replication is inhibited, a quantitative and homogeneous arrest as L3 larvae occurs. Thus, mtDNA amplification is a necessary component of normal development and its regulation may involve an energy-sensing decision or checkpoint that can be invoked when mitochondrial energy generation is impaired.

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