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Breast J. 2009 Sep-Oct;15(5):505-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2009.00767.x. Epub 2009 Jul 13.

Current understanding of mitochondrial DNA in breast cancer.

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1
Laboratory for Prenatal Medicine and Gynecology Oncology, Women's Hospital/Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Basel CH 4031, Switzerland.

Abstract

The recent surge in mitochondrial research has been driven by the identification of mitochondria-associated diseases and the role of mitochondria in apoptosis and aging. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been proposed to be involved in carcinogenesis because of its high susceptibility to mutations and limited repair mechanisms in comparison to nuclear DNA. As mtDNA lacks introns, it has been suggested that most mutations will occur in coding sequences. The subsequent accumulation of mutations may lead to tumor formation. By virtue of their clonal nature, high copy number and high frequent mutations may provide a powerful molecular biomarker for the detection of cancer. It has been suggested that the extent of mtDNA mutations might be useful in the prognosis of cancer outcome and/or the response to certain therapies. In this review article, we aim to provide a brief summary of our current understanding of mitochondrial genetics and biology, review the mtDNA alterations reported in breast cancer, and offer some perspectives as to the emergence of mtDNA mutations, including their functional consequences in cancer development, diagnostic criteria, and therapeutic implications.

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