Mitochondrial gene expression in mammalian striated muscle. Evidence that variation in gene dosage is the major regulatory event.
The oxidative capacity of mammalian striated muscles can vary markedly over a nearly 10-fold range, reflecting major differences in the expression of genes that encode enzymes of oxidative metabolism, including genes located exclusively within mitochondrial DNA. To clarify the regulatory events that govern expression of mitochondrial genes in striated muscle, nucleic acid hybridization procedures employing cloned segments of mitochondrial DNA as probes were utilized to determine the concentrations of mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial ribosomal RNA, and cytochrome b mRNA (a mitochondrial gene product) in rabbit striated muscles of markedly different oxidative capacities. When cardiac muscle and Type I (red, oxidative) skeletal muscle were compared to Type II (white, glycolytic) skeletal muscle, mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial ribosomal RNA, and cytochrome b mRNA, each increased in direct proportion to increases in oxidative capacity. Furthermore, when the phenotypic characteristics of Type II skeletal muscle were altered by electrical stimulation in vivo, mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial rRNA, and cytochrome b mRNA also increased proportionately with increases in oxidative capacity. These results indicate that the expression of mitochondrial genes in mammalian striated muscle is proportionate to their copy number, and support the hypothesis that amplification of the mitochondrial genome relative to chromosomal DNA is an important feature underlying enhanced expression of mitochondrial genes in highly oxidative tissues.
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