Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

The mitochondrial genome: how it drives fertility

Justin St John


In mammalian species, the mitochondrial genome is between 16.2 and 16.7kb in size and encodes key proteins associated the cell’s major energy generating apparatus, the electron transfer chain. The maternally-inherited mitochondrial genome has, until recently, been thought to be only involved in the production of energy. In this review, we analyse the how the mitochondrial genome influences the developing embryo and cellular differentiation, and foetal and offspring health and well-being. We make specific reference to two assisted reproductive technologies, namely mitochondrial supplementation and somatic cell nuclear transfer, and how modulating the mitochondrial content in the oocyte influences embryo viability and the potential to generate enhanced offspring for livestock production purposes. We also explain why it is important to ensure that the transmission of only one population of mtDNA is maintained through to the offspring and why two populations of genetically distinct mitochondrial genomes could be deleterious. Finally, we explain how mitochondrial DNA influences chromosomal gene expression patterns in developing embryos and cells primarily by modulating DNA methylation patterns through factors associated with the citric acid cycle. These factors can then modulate the TET pathway that, in turn, determines whether a cell is in a more or less DNA methylated state. 

RD17408  Accepted 05 October 2017

© CSIRO 2017