Mitochondrial genotype segregation in a mouse heteroplasmic lineage produced by embryonic karyoplast transplantation

Genetics. 1997 Feb;145(2):445-51. doi: 10.1093/genetics/145.2.445.


Mitochondrial genotypes have been shown to segregate both rapidly and slowly when transmitted to consecutive generations in mammals. Our objective was to develop an animal model to analyze the patterns of mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) segregation and transmission in an intraspecific heteroplasmic maternal lineage to investigate the mechanisms controlling these phenomena. Heteroplasmic progeny were obtained from reconstructed blastocysts derived by transplantation of pronuclearstage karyoplasts to enucleated zygotes with different mtDNA. Although the reconstructed zygotes contained on average 19% mtDNA of karyoplast origin, most progeny contained fewer mtDNA of karyoplast origin and produced exclusively homoplasmic first generation progeny. However, one founder heteroplasmic adult female had elevated tissue heteroplasmy levels, varying from 6% (lung) to 69% (heart), indicating that stringent replicative segregation had occurred during mitotic divisions. First generation progeny from the above female were all heteroplasmic, indicating that, despite a meiotic segregation, they were derived from heteroplasmic founder oocytes. Some second and third generation progeny contained exclusively New Zealand Black/BINJ mtDNA, suggesting but not confirming, an origin from an homoplasmic oocyte. Moreover, several third to fifth generation individuals maintained mtDNA from both mouse strains, indicating a slow or persistent segregation pattern characterized by diminished tissue and litter variability beyond second generation progeny. Therefore, although some initial lineages appear to segregate rapidly to homoplasmy, within two generations other lineages transmit stable amounts of both mtDNA molecules, supporting a mechanism where mitochondria of different origin may fuse, leading to persistent intraorganellar heteroplasmy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial*
  • Embryo Transfer
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pedigree


  • DNA, Mitochondrial