Date of this Version
Montooth KL, Rand DM (2008) The spectrum of mitochondrial mutation differs across species. PLoS Biol 6(8): e213. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060213
Mutations are ubiquitous, and many arise during the very process of replicating and transmitting genomes. This process is the source of the genetic variation that provides the raw material for both evolutionary novelty and human disease. Mutation rates are known to vary among nucleotides, across genomic regions, and between taxa. It is conventional wisdom that animal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is one genomic region that has a particularly high mutation rate. Until recently, this high rate of mutation has been predominantly inferred from high levels of mitochondrial sequence divergence between species. However, the apparently simple process of mutation and sequence divergence is intriguingly complex in mitochondria, due to the unique biology of these extrachromosomal genomes.