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PLoS One. 2013 Sep 17;8(9):e73318. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073318. eCollection 2013.

Mitochondrial inverted repeats strongly correlate with lifespan: mtDNA inversions and aging.

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Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, United States of America.


Mitochondrial defects are implicated in aging and in a multitude of age-related diseases, such as cancer, heart failure, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. However, it is still unclear how mitochondrial defects arise under normal physiological conditions. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions caused by direct repeats (DRs) are implicated in the formation of mitochondrial defects, however, mitochondrial DRs show relatively weak (Pearson's r = -0.22, p<0.002; Spearman's ρ = -0.12, p = 0.1) correlation with maximum lifespan (MLS). Here we report a stronger correlation (Pearson's r = -0.55, p<10(-16); Spearman's ρ = -0.52, p<10(-14)) between mitochondrial inverted repeats (IRs) and lifespan across 202 species of mammals. We show that, in wild type mice under normal conditions, IRs cause inversions, which arise by replication-dependent mechanism. The inversions accumulate with age in the brain and heart. Our data suggest that IR-mediated inversions are more mutagenic than DR-mediated deletions in mtDNA, and impose stronger constraint on lifespan. Our study identifies IR-induced mitochondrial genome instability during mtDNA replication as a potential cause for mitochondrial defects.

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