Mitochondrial bioenergetics as a major motive force of speciation

Bioessays. 2009 Jun;31(6):642-50. doi: 10.1002/bies.200800139.


Mitochondrial bioenergetics plays a key role in multiple basic cellular processes, such as energy production, nucleotide biosynthesis, and iron metabolism. It is an essential system for animals' life and death (apoptosis) and it is required for embryo development. This, in conjunction with its being subjected to adaptive processes in multiple species and its gene products being involved in the formation of reproductive barriers in animals, raises the possibility that mitochondrial bioenergetics could be a candidate genetic mechanism of speciation. Here, we discuss genetic and biochemical evidence for the possible involvement of this unique system, encoded by two genomes (the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes), that differ by an order of magnitude in their mutation rates in processes leading to speciation events.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics*
  • Environment
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria* / genetics
  • Mitochondria* / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA