The Associated Press and Mitochondrial DNA

Caught the following piece on the AP,
“Study says near extinction threatened people 70,000 years ago”

Interesting findings to be sure, but one thing in the article caught my attention,

Previous studies using mitochondrial DNA — which is passed down through mothers — have traced modern humans to a single “mitochondrial Eve,” who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago.

Which is passed down through the mothers? Yes that is true but is not exclusively true. It has been long believed that mtDNA is only passed down through the mother, it’s in biology books and it is what was taught to me during college. The problem is that there is a couple of papers in the literature that say otherwise, there is paternal transmission of mtDNA.

This from a paper in the journal Science 286:2524 (1999),

The assumption that human mitochondrial DNA is inherited from one parent only and therefore does not recombine is questionable…

This assumption has been used extensively to date events in human prehistory, including the age of our last common female ancestor, “Eve”, and the spread of Homo Sapiens in Asia and Europe

In fact one of the paper’s authors, respected biologist John Maynard Smith, “is frustrated but not surprised that the establishment chooses to ignore these findings.” New Scientist 178:48 (2000).

Ok, that’s just one paper, well then there was this one in the New England Journal of Medicine 347:576-579 (2002) titled “Paternal Inheritance of Mitochondrial DNA” which states,

We determined that the mtDNA harboring the mutation was paternal in origin and accounted for 90 percent of the patient’s male mtDNA

It seems that Maynard Smith was correct in his frustration, and one has to wonder why the establishment has not really accepted mt DNA recombination?

Could it be because of the impact it might have on the models (i.e. mitochondrial Eve) which are based in large part on the ASSUMPTION that mtDNA is only inherited from the mother? Or what about the industry (genealogical DNA testing) that is built on this assumption?

Things that make you go hmmm…


One Response to The Associated Press and Mitochondrial DNA

  1. Les Feldman says:

    Thank you for this article. It is so hard to dent the party line.

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