The past, present and future of mitochondrial genomics: have we sequenced enough mtDNAs?

Brief Funct Genomics. 2016 Jan;15(1):47-54. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elv027. Epub 2015 Jun 27.

Abstract

The year 2014 saw more than a thousand new mitochondrial genome sequences deposited in GenBank-an almost 15% increase from the previous year. Hundreds of peer-reviewed articles accompanied these genomes, making mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) the most sequenced and reported type of eukaryotic chromosome. These mtDNA data have advanced a wide range of scientific fields, from forensics to anthropology to medicine to molecular evolution. But for many biological lineages, mtDNAs are so well sampled that newly published genomes are arguably no longer contributing significantly to the progression of science, and in some cases they are tying up valuable resources, particularly journal editors and referees. Is it time to acknowledge that as a research community we have published enough mitochondrial genome papers? Here, I address this question, exploring the history, milestones and impacts of mitochondrial genomics, the benefits and drawbacks of continuing to publish mtDNAs at a high rate and what the future may hold for such an important and popular genetic marker. I highlight groups for which mtDNAs are still poorly sampled, thus meriting further investigation, and recommend that more energy be spent characterizing aspects of mitochondrial genomes apart from the DNA sequence, such as their chromosomal and transcriptional architectures. Ultimately, one should be mindful before writing a mitochondrial genome paper. Consider perhaps sending the sequence directly to GenBank instead, and be sure to annotate it correctly before submission.

Keywords: Marine Microbial Eukaryotic Transcriptome Sequencing Project; genome sequencing; microbial diversity; mitochondrial genome; mitochondrial transcriptome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*

Substances

  • DNA, Mitochondrial