Mitochondrial DNA content and expression of genes involved in mtDNA transcription, regulation and maintenance during human fetal development

Mitochondrion. 2010 Jun;10(4):321-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2010.01.006. Epub 2010 Jan 20.


The mitochondrial biogenesis and adequate energy production are important for fetal growth and early postnatal adaptation. The aim of the study was to characterize mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content and expression patterns of POLG, TFAM, NRF1,NRF2 and PGC1 family of regulated coactivators (PGC1A, PGC1B and PRC) involved in the mtDNA transcription, regulation and maintenance in human fetal tissues during second trimester of gestation. Further the mRNA expression profiles of selected cytochrome c oxidase (COX) subunits were analysed. Moreover enzyme activities of COX and CS and protein levels of COX subunits were analysed. DNA, RNA and proteins were isolated from 26 pairs of fetal liver and muscle samples obtained at autopsy after termination of pregnancy for genetic indications unrelated to OXPHOS deficiency between 13th and 28th week of gestation. This work offers a broad view on the mtDNA content changes in two different tissues during the second trimester of gestation and in the corresponding tissues after birth. The important differences in expression of POLG, TFAM, NRF2 genes and family PGC1 coactivators were found between the fetal tissues. The significant tissue-specific changes in expression of selected COX subunits on mRNA level (COX4 and MTCO2) were observed. Further the considerable differences in enzyme activities of COX and CS are demonstrated between fetal and postnatal phase. In conclusion our study indicates that the fetal developing tissues might differ in the control of mitochondrial biogenesis depending on their energy demand and the age of gestation. Moreover the gene expression is changed mainly on transcriptional level through fetal period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Human Development*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Liver / physiology
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Mitochondrial Proteins