In mammalian cells, mitochondria are the only organelles besides the nucleus that house genomic DNA. The mammalian mitochondrial genome is represented by prokaryotic-type, circular, highly compacted DNA molecules. Today, more than a half-century after their discovery, the biology of these small and redundant molecules remains much less understood than that of their nuclear counterparts. One peculiarity of the mitochondrial genome that emerged in recent years is its disposable nature, as evidenced by cells abandoning a fraction of their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in response to various stimuli with little or no physiological consequence. Here, we review some recent developments in the field of mtDNA biology and discuss emerging questions on the disposability and indispensability of mtDNA.
Keywords: Extramitohondrial mtDNA; Mitochondrial DNA; mtDNA copy number; mtDNA degradation; mtDNA maintenance.
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