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Curr Genet. 1993 Oct;24(4):279-90.

Reaching for the ring: the study of mitochondrial genome structure.

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Department of Botany, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The linear molecules that comprise most of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) isolated from most organisms result from the artifactual degradation of circular genomes that exist within mitochondria. This view has been adopted by most investigators and is based on DNA fragment mapping data as well as analogy to the genome-sized circular mtDNA molecules obtained in high yield from animals. The alternative view that linear molecules actually represent the major form of DNA within mitochondria is supported by two observations; (1) over a 1000-fold range of genome size among fungi and plants we find the same size distribution of linear mtDNA molecules, and (2) linear mtDNA molecules much larger than genome size can be found for some fungi and plants. The circles that represent only a small fraction of the mtDNA obtained from most eukaryotes could be optional sequence forms unimportant for mitochondrial function; they may also participate in mtDNA replication. The circles might result from incidental recombination events between directly repeated sequences within or between tandemly arrayed genome units on linear mtDNA molecules.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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