Reversible mitochondrial DNA accumulation in nuclei of pluripotent stem cells

Joel S. Schneider, Xin Cheng, Qingshi Zhao, Chingiz Underbayev, J. Patrick Gonzalez, Elizabeth S. Raveche, Diego Fraidenraich, Andreas S. Ivessa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


According to the endosymbiotic hypothesis, the precursor of mitochondria invaded the precursor of eukaryotic cells, a process that began roughly 2 billion years ago. Since then, the majority of the genetic material translocated from the mitochondria to the nucleus, where now almost all mitochondrial proteins are expressed. Only a tiny amount of DNA remained in the mitochondria, known as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). In this study, we report that the transfer of mtDNA fragments to the nucleus of pluripotent stem cells is still ongoing. We show by in situ hybridization and agarose DNA two-dimensional gel technique that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells contain high levels of mtDNA in the nucleus. We found that a large proportion of the accumulated mtDNA sequences appear to be extrachromosomal. Accumulation of mtDNA in the nucleus is present not only in the iPS cells, but also in embryonic stem (ES) cells. However upon differentiation, the level of mtDNA in the nuclei of iPS and ES cells is substantially reduced. This reversible accumulation of mtDNA in the nucleus supports the notion that the nuclear copy number of mtDNA sequences may provide a novel mechanism by which chromosomal DNA is dynamically regulated in pluripotent stem cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2712-2719
Number of pages8
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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