Mitochondrial Transcription Terminator Family Members mTTF and mTerf5 Have Opposing Roles in Coordination of mtDNA Synthesis

PLoS Genet. 2013;9(9):e1003800. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003800. Epub 2013 Sep 19.


All genomes require a system for avoidance or handling of collisions between the machineries of DNA replication and transcription. We have investigated the roles in this process of the mTERF (mitochondrial transcription termination factor) family members mTTF and mTerf5 in Drosophila melanogaster. The two mTTF binding sites in Drosophila mtDNA, which also bind mTerf5, were found to coincide with major sites of replication pausing. RNAi-mediated knockdown of either factor resulted in mtDNA depletion and developmental arrest. mTTF knockdown decreased site-specific replication pausing, but led to an increase in replication stalling and fork regression in broad zones around each mTTF binding site. Lagging-strand DNA synthesis was impaired, with extended RNA/DNA hybrid segments seen in replication intermediates. This was accompanied by the accumulation of recombination intermediates and nicked/broken mtDNA species. Conversely, mTerf5 knockdown led to enhanced replication pausing at mTTF binding sites, a decrease in fragile replication intermediates containing single-stranded segments, and the disappearance of species containing segments of RNA/DNA hybrid. These findings indicate an essential and previously undescribed role for proteins of the mTERF family in the integration of transcription and DNA replication, preventing unregulated collisions and facilitating productive interactions between the two machineries that are inferred to be essential for completion of lagging-strand DNA synthesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / biosynthesis*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • mTerf5 protein, Drosophila
  • mitochondrial transcription factor A
  • RNA