Expanding the functional human mitochondrial DNA database by the establishment of primate xenomitochondrial cybrids

Lesley Kenyon, Carlos T. Moraes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


The nuclear and mitochondrial genomes coevolve to optimize approximately 100 different interactions necessary for an efficient ATP-generating system. This coevolution led to a species-specific compatibility between these genomes. We introduced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from different primates into mtDNA-less human cells and selected for growth of cells with a functional oxidative phosphorylation system. mtDNA from common chimpanzee, pigmy chimpanzee, and gorilla were able to restore oxidative phosphorylation in the context of a human nuclear background, whereas mtDNA from orangutan, and species representative of Old-World monkeys, New-World monkeys, and lemurs were not. Oxygen consumption, a sensitive index of respiratory function, showed that mtDNA from chimpanzee, pigmy chimpanzee, and gorilla replaced the human mtDNA and restored respiration to essentially normal levels. Mitochondrial protein synthesis was also unaltered in successful 'xenomitochondrial cybrids.' The abrupt failure of mtDNA from primate species that diverged from humans as recently as 8-18 million years ago to functionally replace human mtDNA suggests the presence of one or a few mutations affecting critical nuclear-mitochondrial genome interactions between these species. These cellular systems provide a demonstration of intergenus mtDNA transfer, expand more than 20-fold the number of mtDNA polymorphisms that can be analyzed in a human nuclear background, and provide a novel model for the study of nuclear-mitochondrial interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9131-9135
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 19 1997

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