Date Published: September 7, 2004
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Partial Text: While the nucleus of a cell may be its command headquarters, mitochondria are equally vital—they are the power plants of the cell, and without them all cellular activity would quickly and irrevocably come to a halt. Testifying to their origins as once free-living bacteria, mitochondria have their own DNA, comprising 37 genes in humans on a single circular chromosome. Whether they invaded their ancestral hosts as parasites or were captured as subcellular collaborators, they have long since left their independent ways behind. Their meager complement of genes is far fewer than is needed to produce these complex organelles; it is clear from analyzing the nuclear genome that most of the mitochondria’s presumed ancestral genes have been taken into the cell’s nucleus, where they are under the strict control of their host.