We describe here a nuclear mitochondrial DNA-like sequence (numtDNA) that is nearly identical in sequence to a continuous 5842 bp segment of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that spans nucleotide positions 3914 to 9755. On the basis of evolutionary divergence among modern primates, this numtDNA molecule appears to represent mtDNA from a hominid ancestor that has been translocated to the nuclear genome during the recent evolution of humans. This numtDNA sequence harbors synonymous and nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions relative to the authentic human mtDNA sequence, including an array of substitutions that was previously found in the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 and 2 genes. These substitutions were previously reported to occur in human mtDNA, but subsequently contended to be present in a nuclear pseudogene sequence. We now demonstrate their exclusive association with this 5842-bp numtDNA, which we have characterized in its entirety. This numtDNA does not appear to be expressed as a mtDNA-encoded mRNA. It is present in nuclear DNA from human blood donors, in human SH-SY5Y and A431 cell lines, and in rho(0) SH-SY5Y and rho(0) A431 cell lines that were depleted of mtDNA. The existence of human numtDNA sequences with great similarities to human mtDNA renders the amplification of pure mtDNA from cellular DNA very difficult, thereby creating the potential for confounding studies of mitochondrial diseases and population genetics.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.