Topoisomerase 3α Is Required for Decatenation and Segregation of Human mtDNA

Mol Cell. 2018 Jan 4;69(1):9-23.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2017.11.033. Epub 2017 Dec 28.


How mtDNA replication is terminated and the newly formed genomes are separated remain unknown. We here demonstrate that the mitochondrial isoform of topoisomerase 3α (Top3α) fulfills this function, acting independently of its nuclear role as a component of the Holliday junction-resolving BLM-Top3α-RMI1-RMI2 (BTR) complex. Our data indicate that mtDNA replication termination occurs via a hemicatenane formed at the origin of H-strand replication and that Top3α is essential for resolving this structure. Decatenation is a prerequisite for separation of the segregating unit of mtDNA, the nucleoid, within the mitochondrial network. The importance of this process is highlighted in a patient with mitochondrial disease caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in TOP3A, characterized by muscle-restricted mtDNA deletions and chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia (CPEO) plus syndrome. Our work establishes Top3α as an essential component of the mtDNA replication machinery and as the first component of the mtDNA separation machinery.

Keywords: DNA replication; DNA separation; mitochondrion; nucleoid; progressive external ophthalmoplegia; segregation; topoisomerase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromosome Segregation / genetics*
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / metabolism*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / biosynthesis*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / genetics*
  • Ophthalmoplegia, Chronic Progressive External / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I