Endogenous oxidative damage of mtDNA

Kenneth B. Beckman, Bruce N. Ames

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Almost a decade ago, based on analytical measurements of the oxidative DNA adduct 8-oxo-deoxyguanosine (oxo8dG), it was reported that mitochondrial DNA suffers greater endogenous oxidative damage than nuclear DNA. The subsequent discovery that somatic deletions of mitochondrial DNA occur in humans, and that they do so to the greatest extent in metabolically active tissues, strengthened the hypothesis that mitochondrial DNA is particularly susceptible to endogenous oxidative attack. This hypothesis was (and is) appealing for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, solid direct support for the hypothesis is lacking. Since the initial measurements, attempts to repeat the observation of greater oxidation of mitochondrial DNA have resulted in a range of measurements that spans over four orders of magnitude. Moreover, this range includes values that are as low as published values for nuclear DNA. In the last 2 years or so, it has become apparent that the quantification of oxidative DNA adducts is prone to artifactual oxidation. We have reported that the analysis of small quantities of DNA may be particularly susceptible to such interference. Because yields of mitochondrial DNA are generally low, a systematic artifact associated with low quantities of DNA may have elevated the apparent level of adduct oxo8dG in mitochondrial DNA relative to nuclear DNA in some studies. Whatever the cause for the experimental variation, the huge disparity between published measurements of oxidative damage makes it impossible to conclude that mitochondrial DNA suffers greater oxidation than nuclear DNA. Despite the present confusion, however, there are reasons to hypothesize that this is indeed the case. We briefly describe methods being developed by a number of workers that are likely to surmount current obstacles and allow the hypothesis to be tested definitively. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 8 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Stuart Linn, Patrick Walter, Harold Helbock, and Mark Shigenaga for their helpful discussions. This work was supported by National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Grant CA39910 and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center Grant ES01896 to B.N.A.


  • 8-oxo-deoxyguanosine
  • Oxidative damage
  • mtDNA


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