Mitochondrial DNA inherited variants are associated with successful aging and longevity in humans

FASEB J. 1999 Sep;13(12):1532-6. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.13.12.1532.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is characterized by high variability, maternal inheritance, and absence of recombination. Studies of human populations have revealed ancestral associated polymorphisms whose combination defines groups of mtDNA types (haplogroups) that are currently used to reconstruct human evolution lineages. We used such inherited mtDNA markers to compare mtDNA population pools between a sample of individuals selected for successful aging and longevity (212 subjects older than 100 years and in good clinical condition) and a sample of 275 younger individuals (median age 38 years) carefully matched as to sex and geographic origin (northern and southern Italy). All nine haplogroups that are typical of Europeans were found in both samples, but male centenarians emerged in northern Italy as a particular sample: 1) mtDNA haplogroup frequency distribution was different between centenarians and younger individuals (P=0.017 by permutation tests); and 2) the frequency of the J haplogroup was notably higher in centenarians than in younger individuals (P=0.0052 by Fisher exact test). Since haplogroups are defined on the basis of inherited variants, these data show that mtDNA inherited variability could play a role in successful aging and longevity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Sex Characteristics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial