Immortalization of Different Breast Epithelial Cell Types Results in Distinct Mitochondrial Mutagenesis

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jun 8;20(11):2813. doi: 10.3390/ijms20112813.


Different phenotypes of normal cells might influence genetic profiles, epigenetic profiles, and tumorigenicities of their transformed derivatives. In this study, we investigate whether the whole mitochondrial genome of immortalized cells can be attributed to the different phenotypes (stem vs. non-stem) of their normal epithelial cell originators. To accurately determine mutations, we employed Duplex Sequencing, which exhibits the lowest error rates among currently-available DNA sequencing methods. Our results indicate that the vast majority of the observed mutations of the whole mitochondrial DNA occur at low-frequency (rare mutations). The most prevalent rare mutation types are C→T/G→A and A→G/T→C transitions. Frequencies and spectra of homoplasmic point mutations are virtually identical between stem cell-derived immortalized (SV1) cells and non-stem cell-derived immortalized (SV22) cells, verifying that both cell types were derived from the same woman. However, frequencies of rare point mutations are significantly lower in SV1 cells (5.79 × 10-5) than in SV22 cells (1.16 × 10-4). The significantly lower frequencies of rare mutations are aligned with a finding of longer average distances to adjacent mutations in SV1 cells than in SV22 cells. Additionally, the predicted pathogenicity for rare mutations in the mitochondrial tRNA genes tends to be lower (by 2.5-fold) in SV1 cells than in SV22 cells. While four known/confirmed pathogenic mt-tRNA mutations (m.5650 G>A, m.5521 G>A, m.5690 A>G, m.1630 A>G) were identified in SV22 cells, no such mutations were observed in SV1 cells. Our findings suggest that the immortalization of normal cells with stem cell features leads to decreased mitochondrial mutagenesis, particularly in RNA gene regions. The mutation spectra and mutations specific to stem cell-derived immortalized cells (vs. non-stem cell derived) have implications in characterizing the heterogeneity of tumors and understanding the role of mitochondrial mutations in the immortalization and transformation of human cells.

Keywords: breast cancer; duplex sequencing; mitochondrial DNA; mitochondrial tRNA; next generation sequencing; rare mutation; stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Humans
  • Mutation Rate*
  • Point Mutation
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics


  • RNA, Transfer