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Gen Physiol Biophys. 2010 Jun;29(2):160-74.

Mouse and human mitochondrial nucleoid--detailed structure in relation to function.

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Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, Cancer Research Institute, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Vlárska 7, 833 91 Bratislava, Slovakia.


The independent mitochondrial genetic information is organized in so-called mitochondrial nucleoids that, in vertebrates, typically contain 5-7 genetic units. The total number of nucleoids per cell is several hundred in cultured cells. Mitochondrial nucleoids, similarly to the whole mitochondrial network, have recently been successfully and extensively visualized using fluorescent and confocal microscopy. In the present work, we show high-resolution micrographs of mouse and human mitochondrial nucleoids obtained by transmission electron microscopy. Position in the mitochondria, size, general appearance and other properties of the human nucleoids appear the same as those of mouse nucleoids, and all observations are also in full agreement with the results obtained in different laboratories using different approaches. Most of nucleoids are located inside mitochondrial tubes. However, we show directly that certain part of the nucleoids close to inner membrane is bound to the complex of molecules that crosscut both, the inner and the outer mitochondrial membranes. Nucleoids in cells starving for serum are mostly more dense than those in dividing cells. We discuss the position, appearance and other properties of the nucleoids in relation to functional stage. Other electron-dense structures inside mitochondria that could be erroneously considered to be mitochondrial nucleoids are also described.

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