Degradation of paternal mitochondria after fertilization: implications for heteroplasmy, assisted reproductive technologies and mtDNA inheritance

Sutovsky, Peter; Van Leyen, Klaus; McCauley, Tod; Day, Billy N; Sutovsky, Miriam
January 2004
Reproductive BioMedicine Online (Reproductive Healthcare Limited;Jan2004, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p24
Academic Journal
Maternal inheritance of mitochondrial DNA has long been regarded as a major paradox in developmental biology. While some confusion may still persist in popular science, research data clearly document that the paternal sperm-borne mitochondria of most mammalian species enter the ooplasm at fertilization and are specifically targeted for degradation by the resident ubiquitin system. Ubiquitin is a proteolytic chaperone that forms covalently linked polyubiquitin chains on the targeted proteinaceous substrates. The polyubiquitin tag redirects the substrate proteins to a 26-S proteasome, a multit subunit proteolytic organelle. Thus, specific proteasomal inhibitors reversibly block sperm mitochondrial degradation in ooplasm. Lysosomal degradation and the activity of membrane-lipoperoxidating enzyme 15-1ipoxygenase (15-LOX) may also contribute to sperm mitochondrial degradation in the ooplasm, but probably is not crucial. Prohibitin, the major protein of the inner mitochondrial membrane, appears to be ubiquitinated in the sperm mitochondria. Occasional occurrence of paternal inheritance of mtDNA has been suggested in mammals including humans. While most such evidence has been widely disputed, it warrants further examination. Of particular concern is the documented heteroplasmy, i.e. mixed mtDNA inheritance after ooplasmic transplantation. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has inherent potential for delaying the degradation of sperm mitochondria. However, paternal mtDNA inheritance after ICSI has not been documented so far.


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