Mitochondrial DNA Transcription and Its Regulation: An Evolutionary Perspective Academic Article uri icon


  • The bacterial heritage of mitochondria, as well as its independent genome [mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)] and polycistronic transcripts, led to the view that mitochondrial transcriptional regulation relies on an evolutionarily conserved, prokaryotic-like system that is separated from the rest of the cell. Indeed, mtDNA transcription was previously thought to be governed by a few dedicated direct regulators, namely, the mitochondrial RNA polymerase (POLRMT), two transcription factors (TFAM and TF2BM), one transcription elongation (TEFM), and one known transcription termination factor (mTERF1). Recent findings have, however, revealed that known nuclear gene expression regulators are also involved in mtDNA transcription and have identified novel transcriptional features consistent with adaptation of the mitochondria to the regulatory environment of the precursor of the eukaryotic cell. Finally, whereas mammals follow the human mtDNA transcription pattern, other organisms notably diverge in terms of mtDNA transcriptional regulation. Hence, mtDNA transcriptional regulation is likely more evolutionary diverse than once thought.

publication date

  • September 1, 2018