Our cells are fuelled by tiny ‘batteries’ called mitochondria (pictured), home to the energy-generating biochemistry that facilitates our existence. Every mitochondrion in our body is copied from those present in the egg from which we developed. Tracing this all the way back to the dawn of man, scientists reason that all such structures in today’s population must have descended from a ‘mitochondrial Eve’. In addition to the genome inside the cell nucleus, mitochondria harbour small sets of genes. Recent research in fruit flies demonstrates that mutations in mitochondrial genes affect the expression of hundreds of nuclear genes in the male, but not the female reproductive tissues. And a more recent study shows that variation in mitochondrial genomes affects ageing in male flies. Could this explain why men tend to die younger than women?
Written by Brona McVittie
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