Digging deep into distinctly different DNA

January 22, 2018, University of Queensland
Caenorhabditis elegans. Credit: Wikipedia

A University of Queensland discovery has deepened our understanding of the genetic mutations that arise in different tissues, and how these are inherited.

Researchers from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute, led by Dr Steven Zuryn, found the rates of in mitochondrial DNA vary across differing tissue types, with the highest rate occurring in .

"Mitochondria are known as the cell's power plant - they are found in all animal and human cells - and in humans they generate about 90 per cent of the body's energy from the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe," Dr Zuryn said.

"In addition to regular DNA, which is contained in the nucleus, each cell also contains DNA in the mitochondria.

"Mitochondrial DNA is only passed down from the mother's side, and transmits the genetic information from one generation to the next."

The team studied the transparent roundworm (C. elegans), which shares about 60-80% of the same genes as humans, to shed light on the importance of mechanisms regulating the frequency of gene mutations in different cells and organs.

"C. elegans and humans share very similar mitochondria, and it is a useful organism as we can genetically tease apart the mechanisms of what is happening at a cellular level," he said.

The researchers developed an exceptionally pure method of isolating mitochondria from specific cells in the body to study them in detail.

"We now suspect that there is a mechanism in all animals that can filter out these mutations before they are passed to future offspring, which could otherwise cause a multitude of diseases affecting the brain," Dr Zuryn said.

In humans, mutations in mitochondrial DNA can cause rare but devastating diseases, especially in organs such as the brain, which relies heavily on mitochondria for energy.

The study is published in Nature Cell Biology.

Explore further: How incurable mitochondrial diseases strike previously unaffected families

More information: Affinity purification of cell-specific mitochondria from whole animals resolves patterns of genetic mosaicism, Nature Cell Biology (2018). nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41556-017-0023-x

Related Stories

First DNA sequence from a single mitochondria

December 6, 2017

DNA sequences between mitochondria within a single cell are vastly different, found researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. This knowledge will help to better illuminate the underlying ...

What are mitochondria and how did we come to have them?

September 22, 2017

We've probably all heard of mitochondria, and we may even remember learning in school that they are the "powerhouses of the cell" – but what does that actually mean, and how did they evolve? To answer this question, we ...

Animals' mitochondria defenses discovered in plants

November 2, 2017

Mitochondria are cell organelles that play critical roles in maintaining the cell's health, or homeostasis. One way that mitochondria do this is by harvesting energy though oxidative phosphorylation, where various enzymes ...

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.