Mol Biol Cell. 2016 May 15;27(10):1684-93. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E15-10-0690. Epub 2016 Mar 23.
Reactive oxygen species stimulate mitochondrial allele segregation toward homoplasmy in human cells.
Mitochondria that contain a mixture of mutant and wild-type mitochondrial (mt) DNA copies are heteroplasmic. In humans, homoplasmy is restored during early oogenesis and reprogramming of somatic cells, but the mechanism of mt-allele segregation remains unknown. In budding yeast, homoplasmy is restored by head-to-tail concatemer formation in mother cells by reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced rolling-circle replication and selective transmission of concatemers to daughter cells, but this mechanism is not obvious in higher eukaryotes. Here, using heteroplasmic m.3243A > G primary fibroblast cells derived from MELAS patients treated with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), we show that an optimal ROS level promotes mt-allele segregation toward wild-type and mutant mtDNA homoplasmy. Enhanced ROS level reduced the amount of intact mtDNA replication templates but increased linear tandem multimers linked by head-to-tail unit-sized mtDNA (mtDNA concatemers). ROS-triggered mt-allele segregation correlated with mtDNA-concatemer production and enabled transmission of multiple identical mt-genome copies as a single unit. Our results support a mechanism by which mt-allele segregation toward mt-homoplasmy is mediated by concatemers.