The long PCR and the Southern blot techniques were used to study mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in 94 sperm samples, and in 35 oocytes collected from 12 women. The sperm samples were classified in two sets: 37 samples from normal subjects, and 57 samples from patients with oligoasthenospermia. In both sets, most of the spermatozoan mitochondria had multiple mtDNA deletions. The rate of mtDNA mutation, which appears unexpectedly high, considering the short life span of the spermatozoa, may be due to impaired maintenance during differentiation. In contrast, despite the long life span of oocytes and the extended meiotic period, oocyte mitochondria showed few mtDNA rearrangements. However, mitochondria in oocytes from a given donor revealed considerable mutational heterogeneity. This supports the bottleneck theory of rapid segregation of mtDNA genotypes during early oogenesis. The long PCR technique, which allows analysis of the entire mitochondrial genome, provides new information on mtDNA instability in human gametes. Our findings suggest that mtDNA maintenance differs in the two types of gametes.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.