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Mol Cell Biol. 1990 Nov;10(11):5671-8.

Mitochondrial DNA structure and expression in specialized subtypes of mammalian striated muscle.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Mitochondrial DNA (mt DNA) in cells of vertebrate organisms can assume an unusual triplex DNA structure known as the displacement loop (D loop). This triplex DNA structure forms when a partially replicated heavy strand of mtDNA (7S mtDNA) remains annealed to the light strand, displacing the native heavy strand in this region. The D-loop region contains the promoters for both heavy- and light-strand transcription as well as the origin of heavy-strand replication. However, the distribution of triplex and duplex forms of mtDNA in relation to respiratory activity of mammalian tissues has not been systematically characterized, and the functional significance of the D-loop structure is unknown. In comparisons of specialized muscle subtypes within the same species and of the same muscle subtype in different species, the relative proportion of D-loop versus duplex forms of mtDNA in striated muscle tissues of several mammalian species demonstrated marked variation, ranging from 1% in glycolytic fast skeletal fibers of the rabbit to 65% in the mouse heart. There was a consistent and direct correlation between the ratio of triplex to duplex forms of mtDNA and the capacity of these tissues for oxidative metabolism. The proportion of D-loop forms likewise correlated directly with mtDNA copy number, mtRNA abundance, and the specific activity of the mtDNA (gamma) polymerase. The D-loop form of mtDNA does not appear to be transcribed at greater efficiency than the duplex form, since the ratio of mtDNA copy number to mtRNA was unrelated to the proportion of triplex mtDNA genomes. However, tissues with a preponderance of D-loop forms tended to express greater levels of cytochrome b mRNA relative to mitochondrial rRNA transcripts, suggesting that the triplex structure may be associated with variations in partial versus full-length transcription of the heavy strand.

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