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Chiang, A.C., McCartney, E., O'Farrell, P.H., Ma, H. (2019). A Genome-wide Screen Reveals that Reducing Mitochondrial DNA Polymerase Can Promote Elimination of Deleterious Mitochondrial Mutations.  Curr. Biol. 29(24): 4330--4336.e3.
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A mutant mitochondrial genome arising amid the pool of mitochondrial genomes within a cell must compete with existing genomes to survive to the next generation. Even weak selective forces can bias transmission of one genome over another to affect the inheritance of mitochondrial diseases and guide the evolution of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Studies in several systems suggested that purifying selection in the female germline reduces transmission of detrimental mitochondrial mutations 1-7. In contrast, some selfish genomes can take over despite a cost to host fitness 8-13. Within individuals, the outcome of competition is therefore influenced by multiple selective forces. The nuclear genome, which encodes most proteins within mitochondria, and all external regulators of mitochondrial biogenesis and dynamics can influence the competition between mitochondrial genomes 14-18, yet little is known about how this works. Previously, we established a Drosophila line transmitting two mitochondrial genomes in a stable ratio enforced by purifying selection benefiting one genome and a selfish advantage favoring the other 8. Here, to find nuclear genes that impact mtDNA competition, we screened heterozygous deletions tiling ∼70% of the euchromatic regions and examined their influence on this ratio. This genome-wide screen detected many nuclear modifiers of this ratio and identified one as the catalytic subunit of mtDNA polymerase gene (POLG), tam. A reduced dose of tam drove elimination of defective mitochondrial genomes. This study suggests that our approach will uncover targets for interventions that would block propagation of pathogenic mitochondrial mutations.

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PMC6926476 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Curr. Biol.
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