Bidirectional crosstalk between the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes is essential for proper cell functioning. Mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNA-CN) and heteroplasmy influence mitochondrial function, which can influence the nuclear genome and contribute to health and disease. Evidence shows that mtDNA-CN and heteroplasmic variation are associated with aging, complex disease, and all-cause mortality. Further, the nuclear epigenome may mediate the effects of mtDNA variation on disease. In this way, mitochondria act as an environmental biosensor translating vital information about the state of the cell to the nuclear genome. Cellular communication between mtDNA variation and the nuclear epigenome can be achieved by modification of metabolites and intermediates of the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. These essential molecules (e.g. ATP, acetyl-CoA, ɑ-ketoglutarate and S-adenosylmethionine) act as substrates and cofactors for enzymes involved in epigenetic modifications. The role of mitochondria as an environmental biosensor is emerging as a critical modifier of disease states. Uncovering the mechanisms of these dynamics in disease processes is expected to lead to earlier and improved treatment for a variety of diseases. However, the influence of mtDNA-CN and heteroplasmy variation on mitochondrially-derived epigenome-modifying metabolites and intermediates is poorly understood. This perspective will focus on the relationship between mtDNA-CN, heteroplasmy, and epigenome modifying cofactors and substrates, and the influence of their dynamics on the nuclear epigenome in health and disease.
Keywords: DNA methylation; aging; disease; epigenome; histone acetylation; metabolism; mitochondrial DNA.
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