Tissue-specific distribution of multiple mitochondrial DNA rearrangements during human aging

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 20;854:171-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09900.x.


Mitochondria, according to the free radical theory of aging, are the major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The results, presented in this paper, question the role of reactive oxygen species in contributing significantly to the extent of mitochondrial bioenergy degradation of the tissues, which can be correlated with mtDNA rearrangements. We report here that mtDNA rearrangements, including deletions and duplications, in tissues from human aged subjects, occur in levels ranging from very low in liver, to considerable in cardiac muscle, to almost total in skeletal muscle. The extent of mtDNA rearrangements is correlated at both the individual tissue and cell level with cytochrome oxidase (COX) activity as the exemplifier of cellular bioenergy capacity. Thus, the ROS proposal in its simplest form as it affects mtDNA and mitochondrial electron transport system is not supported by the available data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / genetics
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Mitochondria, Liver / genetics
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / genetics
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Mutation*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Electron Transport Complex IV