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Cell. 1977 Oct;12(2):471-82.

The mitochondrial DNA of Drosophila melanogaster exists in two distinct and stable superhelical forms.


We have studied the structure and replication of mitochondrial DNA from Drosophila melanogaster embryos, larvae, adult flies and two established tissue culture lines. The most striking observation is that the organism maintains at least two stable, distinct closed circular forms of mitochondrial DNA throughout development of the early embryo and in the adult fly. The major closed circular monomeric form comprises approximately 75% of the population and has a normal number of superhelical turns. In contrast, closed circular mitochondrial DNA isolated from Drosophila tissue culture cells is comprised almost entirely of molecules with the low superhelix density. We have been unable to detect the D loop form of mitochondrial DNA present in other eucaryotic systems, and find by electron microscope and pulse-chase labeling techniques that the time required to replicate Drosophila mitochondrial DNA is very short (less than 15 min) compared to the mouse L cell system (greater than 1 hr). We conclude that Drosophila mitochondrial DNA utilizes a replication mechanism different from that of other higher eucaryotes. We postulate that the maintenance of markedly different topological forms of mitochondrial DNA is most probably related to different demands for replication and transcription of the genome in these sources.

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