Mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene encodes a functional peptide, a potential drug for Alzheimer's disease and target for cancer therapy

Med Hypotheses. 2002 Dec;59(6):670-3. doi: 10.1016/s0306-9877(02)00223-2.


New functions of well-known genes have been revealed frequently. A new example is described in this report. Earlier we have detected an up-regulation of expression of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Here we demonstrate that the human mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene encodes a potential oncopeptide, Humanin described recently. This peptide suppresses neuronal cell death induced by mutant genes responsible for familial Alzheimer's disease (AD). Analysis of the gene coding site structure showed that Humanin mRNA is translated most likely in the cytosol, but not in the mitochondrion in vivo. This led us to suppose that AD could be caused by a block of Humanin mRNA transport from mitochondria into the cytosol. Moreover, our data and reports by others an mitochondrial 16S rRNA transcription and characteristic of transcript structure suggests that Humanin is a potential oncopeptide. Thus, the use of Humanin for the treatment of AD may increase the risk for the development of malignant diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / genetics
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / genetics*
  • Peptides / therapeutic use*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Peptides
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S