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Mitochondrial Genome Evolution

  1. Matthias Bernt1,
  2. Rainer Machné2,6,
  3. Abdullah H Sahyoun2,3,
  4. Martin Middendorf1,
  5. Peter F Stadler2,4,5,6,7

Published Online: 20 SEP 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025142



How to Cite

Bernt, M., Machné, R., Sahyoun, A. H., Middendorf, M. and Stadler, P. F. 2013. Mitochondrial Genome Evolution. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Parallel Computing and Complex Systems Group, Department of Computer Science, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

  2. 2

    Bioinformatics Group, Department of Computer Science and Interdisciplinary Center for Bioinformatics, Universität Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

  3. 3

    Doctoral School of Science and Technology, AZM Center for Biotechnology Research, Lebanese University, Tripoli, Lebanon

  4. 4

    Max-Planck-Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

  5. 5

    Fraunhofer Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie, Leipzig, Germany

  6. 6

    Department of Theoretical Chemistry, University of Vienna, Wien, Austria

  7. 7

    Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 20 SEP 2013


Mitochondria are membrane-enclosed organelles present in most eukaryotic cells that generate most of the cell's adenosine triphosphate (ATP) supply. Derived from a proteobacterial ancestor, mitochondria harbour their own, drastically reduced genome. Starting from a prokaryote-like ancestral state encoding a complete ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) operon, a complete set of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) required for translation, and key enzymes of the respiratory chain as well as some ribosomal proteins, the mitogenome has been dramatically restructured and further reduced in many of the eukaryotic lineages. The loss and transfer to the nucleus of mitochondrial genes is a common trend in most phyla, in particular in Metazoa and Alveolata. In extreme, phylogenetically dispersed cases, often associated with parasitic or anaerobic life styles, mitochondria have been transformed to the so-called mitosomes or hydrogenosomes devoid of their own genetic material. Ancestrally a single circular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), mitogenomes have evolved to complex, fragmented architectures in particular in Euglenozoa.

Key Concepts:

  • Mitochondria have an endosymbiotic origin deriving from a proteobacterial ancestor.

  • Various evolutionary mechanisms operate on mitochondrial genomes.

  • Mitochondrial genomes have developed very diverse properties during eukaryote evolution.

  • Mitogenomic gene content declines in most eukaryotic lineages by horizontal transfer to the nuclear genome.

  • Complex idiosyncratic genome organisations have independently evolved in several eukaryotic phyla.


  • evolution;
  • eukaryote;
  • genome rearrangements;
  • horizontal gene transfer;
  • introns;
  • mitochondria;
  • respiratory chain;
  • rRNA;
  • tRNA