Segregation of mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy through a developmental genetic bottleneck in human embryos.

TitleSegregation of mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy through a developmental genetic bottleneck in human embryos.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFloros, VI, Pyle, A, Dietmann, S, Wei, W, Tang, WWC, Irie, N, Payne, B, Capalbo, A, Noli, L, Coxhead, J, Hudson, G, Crosier, M, Strahl, H, Khalaf, Y, Saitou, M, Ilic, D, M Surani, A, Chinnery, PF
JournalNat Cell Biol
Date Published2018 Feb

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations cause inherited diseases and are implicated in the pathogenesis of common late-onset disorders, but how they arise is not clear. Here we show that mtDNA mutations are present in primordial germ cells (PGCs) within healthy female human embryos. Isolated PGCs have a profound reduction in mtDNA content, with discrete mitochondria containing ~5 mtDNA molecules. Single-cell deep mtDNA sequencing of in vivo human female PGCs showed rare variants reaching higher heteroplasmy levels in late PGCs, consistent with the observed genetic bottleneck. We also saw the signature of selection against non-synonymous protein-coding, tRNA gene and D-loop variants, concomitant with a progressive upregulation of genes involving mtDNA replication and transcription, and linked to a transition from glycolytic to oxidative metabolism. The associated metabolic shift would expose deleterious mutations to selection during early germ cell development, preventing the relentless accumulation of mtDNA mutations in the human population predicted by Muller's ratchet. Mutations escaping this mechanism will show shifts in heteroplasmy levels within one human generation, explaining the extreme phenotypic variation seen in human pedigrees with inherited mtDNA disorders.

Alternate JournalNat. Cell Biol.
Citation Key10.1038/s41556-017-0017-8
PubMed ID29335530