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Curr Genet. 1987;12(2):81-90.

Sequence analysis of cDNAs for the human and bovine ATP synthase beta subunit: mitochondrial DNA genes sustain seventeen times more mutations.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Emory University Medical School, Atlanta, GA 30322.


We have cloned and sequenced human and bovine cDNAs for the beta subunit of the ATP synthase (ATP-syn beta), a nuclear DNA (nDNA) encoded oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) gene. The two cDNAs were found to share 99% amino acid homology and 94% nucleotide homology. The evolutionary rate of ATPsyn beta was then compared with that of two mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) ATP synthase genes (ATPase 6 and 8), seven other mtDNA OXPHOS genes, and a number of nuclear genes. The synonymous substitution rate for ATPsyn beta proved to be 1.9 x 10(-9) substitutions per site per year (substitutions x site-1 x year-1) (SSY). This is less than 1/2 that of the average nDNA gene, 1/12 the rate of ATPase 6 and 8, and 1/17 the rate of the average mtDNA gene. The synonymous and replacement substitution rates were used to calculate a new parameter, the "selective constraint ratio". This revealed that even the most variable mtDNA protein was more constrained than the average nDNA protein. Thus, the high substitution mutation rate and strong selective constraints of mammalian mtDNA proteins suggest that mtDNA mutations may result in a disproportionately large number of human hereditary diseases of OXPHOS.

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