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The mitochondrial DNA control region shows genetically correlated levels of heteroplasmy in leukocytes of centenarians and their offspring

Giuseppina Rose1, Giuseppe Passarino1*, Vittorio Scornaienchi1, Giuseppe Romeo1, Serena Dato1, Dina Bellizzi1, Vincenzo Mari2, Emidio Feraco2, Raffaele Maletta3, Amalia Bruni3, Claudio Franceschi4 and Giovanna De Benedictis1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology, University of Calabria. 87036 Rende, Italy

2 Italian National Research Center on Ageing (INRCA). 87100 Cosenza, Italy

3 Regional Neurogenetic Center, ASL 6 Viale Perugini. 88046 Lamezia Terme, Italy

4 Department of Experimental Pathology and Interdepartmental Center L. Galvani, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:293  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-293

Published: 29 August 2007



Studies on heteroplasmy occurring in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (CR) in leukocytes of centenarians and younger subjects have shown that the C150T somatic transition is over-represented in centenarians. However, whether the occurrence/accumulation of heteroplasmy is a phenotypic consequence of extreme ageing or a genetically controlled event that may favor longevity is a question that deserves further attention. To clarify this point, we set up a Denaturing High Performance Liquid Chromatography (DHPLC) protocol to quantify mtDNA CR heteroplasmy. We then analyzed heteroplasmy in leukocytes of centenarians (100 subjects), their offspring and nieces/nephews (200 subjects, age-range 65–80 years, median age 70 years), and in leukocytes of 114 control subjects sex- and age-matched with the relatives of centenarians.


The centenarians and their descendants, despite the different ages, showed similar levels of heteroplasmy which were significantly higher than levels in controls. In addition we found that heteroplasmy levels were significantly correlated in parent-offspring pairs (r = 0.263; p = 0.009), but were independent of mtDNA inherited variability (haplogroup and sequence analyses).


Our findings suggest that the high degree of heteroplasmy observed in centenarians is genetically controlled, and that such genetic control is independent of mtDNA variability and likely due to the nuclear genome.