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    Heteroplasmy refers to the coexistence of more than one variant of the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA). Mutated or partially deleted mtDNAs can induce chronic metabolic impairment and cause mitochondrial diseases when their heteroplasmy levels exceed a critical threshold. These mutant mtDNAs can be maternally inherited or can arise de novo. Compelling evidence has emerged showing that mutant mtDNA levels can vary and change in a nonrandom fashion across generations and amongst tissues of an individual. However, our lack of understanding of the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms of mtDNA heteroplasmy dynamics has made it difficult to predict who will inherit or develop mtDNA-associated diseases. More recently, with the advances in technology and the establishment of tractable model systems, insights into the mechanisms underlying the selection forces that modulate heteroplasmy dynamics are beginning to emerge. In this review, we summarize evidence from different organisms, showing that mutant mtDNA can experience both positive and negative selection. We also review the recently identified mechanisms that modulate heteroplasmy dynamics. Taken together, this is an opportune time to survey the literature and to identify key cellular pathways that can be targeted to develop therapies for diseases caused by heteroplasmic mtDNA mutations.


    Claudia V Pereira, Bryan L Gitschlag, Maulik R Patel. Cellular mechanisms of mtDNA heteroplasmy dynamics. Critical reviews in biochemistry and molecular biology. 2021 Oct;56(5):510-525

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    PMID: 34120542

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