Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is an important tool for tracing evolutionary relationships within a species

Mitochondrial DNA offers several benefits over nuclear DNA when determining phylogenetic pathways, including:

  • Maternal inheritance – mtDNA is inherited from the mother only, providing a much more direct genetic lineage
  • No recombination – As mtDNA is passed from the mother, no recombination occurs, maintaining sequence fidelity
  • Higher mutation rate – Mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species, which cause sequences to mutate at a higher rate
  • High copy number – As every cell has mitochondria, large amounts of mtDNA can be gathered for sequencing

Mitochondrial DNA is ideal for comparing organisms within a species or those who have diverged recently (> 20 million years)

  • Evidence from mtDNA has been used to divide the human population into distinct haplogroups
  • Humans can trace their origins back to one of seven super-haplogroups originating from an original 'Mitochondrial Eve

Mitochondrial DNA