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Exp Gerontol. 2005 Mar;40(3):209-18. Epub 2005 Jan 18.

MtDNA point mutations are associated with deletion mutations in aged rat.

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Department of Animal Health and Biomedical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1656 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The age-dependent accumulation of point mutations in the control region of human mtDNA has been suggested to contribute to aging processes. We investigated whether mtDNA point mutations accumulate to detectable levels in this region of mtDNA from aged Fischer 344 X Brown Norway F(1) hybrid rats. The control region and a portion of the major arc region (nucleotides 4386-7707) of the mtDNA were PCR-amplified and directly sequenced from microdissected single cardiomyocytes and single skeletal muscle fibers of 36-month old rats. Point mutations were not observed in these regions of the full-length mtDNA. Point mutations were, however, associated with deletion mutations, especially in cardiac cells. Approximately 40% of the deletion mutations identified in heart contained a point mutation, whereas only 1.9% of deletion mutations in skeletal muscle contained a point mutation. Point mutations were located adjacent to the deletion breakpoints and each point mutation was unique. In aged rats, point mutations are clonally expanded only when associated with deletion events suggesting that there are important differences between rats and humans in the mechanisms that cause mtDNA abnormalities.

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