Regulation of the expression of mitochondrial proteins: relationship between mtDNA copy number and cytochrome-c oxidase activity in human cells and tissues

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1993 Sep 13;1144(2):177-83. doi: 10.1016/0005-2728(93)90170-k.


The relationship between the relative amounts of nuclear and mitochondrial genes for cytochrome-c oxidase subunits and their transcripts and cytochrome-c oxidase activity was investigated in several human tissues and cell lines to get more insight into the regulation of the expression of this mitochondrial enzyme complex. The results show: (1) a wide range of mtDNA copy numbers; (2) constant ratios between the steady-state levels of the transcripts for the various cytochrome-c oxidase subunits, and (3) large variations in cytochrome-c oxidase activity in different tissues and cell lines that could not be related to the differences in mtDNA copy number. We conclude that the transcription of genes for both mitochondrial and nuclear cytochrome-c oxidase subunits is regulated coordinatedly, but also that the mtDNA copy number plays a minor role in determining differences in cytochrome-c oxidase activity between different cell and tissue types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / enzymology
  • DNA Replication
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Electron Transport Complex IV