Accumulation of linear mitochondrial DNA fragments in the nucleus shortens the chronological life span of yeast

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Translocation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) fragments to the nucleus and insertion of those fragments into nuclear DNA has been observed in several organisms ranging from yeast to plants and mammals. Disruption of specific nuclear genes by de novo insertions of mtDNA fragments has even been linked to the initiation of several human diseases. Recently, we demonstrated that baker's yeast strains with high rates of mtDNA fragments migrating to the nucleus (yme1-1 mutant) exhibit short chronological life spans (CLS). The yeast CLS is determined by the survival of non-dividing cell populations. Here, we show that lack of the non-homologous-end-joining enzyme DNA ligase IV (DNL4) can rescue the short CLS of the yme1-1 mutant. In fission yeast, DNA ligase IV has been shown to be required for the capture of mtDNA fragments during the repair of double-stranded DNA breaks in nuclear DNA. In further analyses using pulse field gel and 2D gel electrophoresis we demonstrate that linear mtDNA fragments with likely nuclear localization accumulate in the yme1-1 mutant. The accumulation of the linear mtDNA fragments in the yme1-1 mutant is suppressed when Dnl4 is absent. We propose that the linear nuclear mtDNA fragments accelerate the aging process in the yme1-1 mutant cells by possibly affecting nuclear processes including DNA replication, recombination, and repair as well as transcription of nuclear genes. We speculate further that Dnl4 protein has besides its function as a ligase also a role in DNA protection. Dnl4 protein may stabilize the linear mtDNA fragments in the nucleus by binding to their physical ends. In the absence of Dnl4 protein the linear fragments are therefore unprotected and possibly degraded by nuclear nucleases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-788
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


  • Chronological aging
  • Life span
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Nuclear DNA damage
  • Nuclear mtDNA insertions

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