Beyond Base Excision Repair: An evolving picture of mitochondrial DNA repair

. 2021 Oct 5;BSR20211320.

doi: 10.1042/BSR20211320.

Online ahead of print.


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Kathrin Allkanjari et al.

Biosci Rep.


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Mitochondria are highly specialised organelles required for cellular processes including ATP-production through cellular respiration and controlling apoptosis. Mitochondria contain their own DNA genome which encodes both protein and RNA required for cellular respiration. Each cell may contain hundreds to thousands of copies of the mitochondrial genome, which is essential for normal cellular function – deviation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number is associated with cellular aging and disease. Furthermore, mtDNA lesions can arise from both endogenous or exogenous sources and must either be tolerated or corrected to preserve mitochondrial function. Importantly, replication of damaged mtDNA can lead to stalling and introduction of mutations or genetic loss, mitochondria have adapted mechanisms to repair damaged DNA. These mechanisms rely on nuclear encoded DNA repair proteins that are translocated into the mitochondria. Despite the presence of many known nuclear DNA repair proteins being found in the mitochondrial proteome, it remains to be established which DNA repair mechanisms are functional in mammalian mitochondria. Here, we summarise the existing and emerging research, alongside examining proteomic evidence, demonstrating that mtDNA damage can be repaired using Base Excision Repair (BER), Homologous Recombination (HR) and Microhomology-mediated End Joining (MMEJ). Critically, these repair mechanisms do not operate in isolation and evidence for interplay between pathways and repair associated with replication is discussed. Importantly, characterising non-canonical functions of key proteins and understanding the bespoke pathways used to tolerate, repair or bypass DNA damage will be fundamental in fully understanding the causes of mitochondrial genome mutations and mitochondrial dysfunction.


DNA replication and recombination; DNA synthesis and repair; genome integrity; mtDNA.

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