Frequent somatic transfer of mitochondrial DNA into the nuclear genome of human cancer cells

Young Seok Ju, Jose M.C. Tubio, William Mifsud, Beiyuan Fu, Helen R. Davies, Manasa Ramakrishna, Yilong Li, Lucy Yates, Gunes Gundem, Patrick S. Tarpey, Sam Behjati, Elli Papaemmanuil, Sancha Martin, Anthony Fullam, Moritz Gerstung, Jyoti Nangalia, Anthony R. Green, Carlos Caldas, Åke Borg, Andrew TuttMing Ta Michael Lee, Laura J. Van'T Veer, Benita K.T. Tan, Samuel Aparicio, Paul N. Span, John W.M. Martens, Stian Knappskog, Anne Vincent-Salomon, Anne Lise Børresen-Dale, Jórunn Erla Eyfjörd, Adrienne M. Flanagan, Christopher Foster, David E. Neal, Colin Cooper, Rosalind Eeles, Sunil R. Lakhani, Christine Desmedt, Gilles Thomas, Andrea L. Richardson, Colin A. Purdie, Alastair M. Thompson, Ultan McDermott, Fengtang Yang, Serena Nik-Zainal, Peter J. Campbell, Michael R. Stratton*, ICGC Prostate Cancer Working Group, ICGC Bone Cancer Working Group, ICGC Breast Cancer Working Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Mitochondrial genomes are separated from the nuclear genome for most of the cell cycle by the nuclear double membrane, intervening cytoplasm, and the mitochondrial double membrane. Despite these physical barriers, we show that somatically acquired mitochondrial-nuclear genome fusion sequences are present in cancer cells. Most occur in conjunction with intranuclear genomic rearrangements, and the features of the fusion fragments indicate that nonhomologous end joining and/or replication-dependent DNA double-strand break repair are the dominant mechanisms involved. Remarkably, mitochondrial-nuclear genome fusions occur at a similar rate per base pair of DNA as interchromosomal nuclear rearrangements, indicating the presence of a high frequency of contact between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in some somatic cells. Transmission of mitochondrial DNA to the nuclear genome occurs in neoplastically transformed cells, but we do not exclude the possibility that some mitochondrial-nuclear DNA fusions observed in cancer occurred years earlier in normal somatic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-824
Number of pages11
JournalGenome Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


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