Genetic Chaos

Monday, April 05, 2004

Mitochondrial DNA: a tool for populational genetics studies

Mitochondria are cellular organelles that have the function of the oxidative phosphorilation and the formation of ATP. In humans, the mtDNA is a double-stranded, circular, covalent closed molecule of 16.5 kb. The mtDNA is inherited as a haploid from the mother and heteroplasmy has been found rarely. From a populational perspective, it could be considered as a system of small, sexually isolated demes, or clonal lineages, with an evolutionary rate 5 to 10 times faster than the nuclear genome. All these characteristics make this molecule ideal for evolutionary studies. We present two applications of this molecule in genetical studies. One of these is referred to the Balearic Islands populations, Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Chuetas. The other example is the populational dynamics of the different mitochondrial haplotypes in Drosophila subobscura. We also discuss the importance of nuclear markers to complete these studies as well as the study of the Y chromosome to compensate the bias produced by the study of only the mtDNA.

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