• aging;
  • mtDNA;
  • rhesus monkey;
  • skeletal muscle


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletion mutations co-localize with electron transport system (ETS) abnormalities in rhesus monkey skeletal muscle fibers. Using laser capture microdissection in conjunction with PCR and DNA sequence analysis, mitochondrial genomes from single sections of ETS abnormal fibers were characterized. All ETS abnormal fibers contained mtDNA deletion mutations. Deletions were large, removing 20–78% of the genome, with some to nearly all of the functional genes lost. In one-third of the deleted genomes, the light strand origin was deleted, whereas the heavy strand origin of replication was conserved in all fibers. A majority (27/39) of the deletion mutations had direct repeat sequences at their breakpoints and most (36/39) had one breakpoint within or in close proximity to the cytochrome b gene. Several pieces of evidence support the clonality of the mtDNA deletion mutation within an ETS abnormal region of a fiber: (a) only single, smaller than wild-type, PCR products were obtained from each ETS abnormal region; (b) the amplification of mtDNA from two regions of the same ETS abnormal fiber identified identical deletion mutations, and (c) a polymorphism was observed at nucleotide position 16103 (A and G) in the wild-type mtDNA of one animal (sequence analysis of an ETS abnormal region revealed that mtDNA deletion mutations contained only A or G at this position). Species-specific differences in the regions of the genomes lost as well as the presence of direct repeat sequences at the breakpoints suggest mechanistic differences in deletion mutation formation between rodents and primates.