Inherited variability of the mitochondrial genome and successful aging in humans

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 Jun:908:208-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb06648.x.


Increasing data indicate that polymorphic variants of nuclear loci can affect rate and quality of aging in humans. However, the mitochondrial genome is another good candidate, because of the central role played by mitochondrial genes in oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and cell metabolism. A characteristic of the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) is the high level of interindividual variability that ensues from high mutation rate and unilinear inheritance. Related groups of germline/inherited mtDNA polymorphisms (haplogroups) have been identified as continent-specific sets of stable/ancient/associated restriction fragment length polymorphisms in the mtDNA coding region, representing markers capable of exactly depicting the mtDNA pool of a specific population. The hypothesis can be put forward that mtDNA variants included in a haplogroup may have similar OXPHOS efficiency and therefore act as genetic factors predisposing to individual successful or unsuccessful aging. This idea can be explored by sampling groups of individuals of different ages from a well-defined population and comparing the pools of mtDNA haplogroups between samples. The results obtained by screening mtDNA haplogroups in about 800 Italians of different ages, including more than 200 centenarians, agree with the hypothesis that the inherited variability of the mitochondrial genome is associated with the chance of successful aging and longevity in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial