Health & Fitness, Knowledge

Mitochondrial DNA Testing: 5 Facts

When it comes to essential facts about mitochondrial DNA, the primary focus is on data that can be fairly technical at first blush. Despite the potential complexities, because of the importance of mitochondrial DNA when it comes to such things as DNA testing of all types, including that performed via a home dna test kit, have a basic understanding of some of these facts is important. There are five primary facts associated with mitochondrial DNA presented here for your consideration.

1. Mitochondrial DNA is Located in Eukaryotic Cells

By Kelvinsong; modified by Sowlos – Own work based on: Mitochondrion mini.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Perhaps the most important fact to know about mitochondrial DNA is that it is found only in eukaryotic cells and not in prokaryotic ones. Eukaryotic cells contain what are known as membrane-bound or covered organelles, including the nucleus. These are the types of cells found in human beings and all other living beings in the animal kingdom.

Prokaryotic cells lack membrane-bound organelles. They also lack mitochondrial DNA. Prokaryotic cells have existed for millions of years and predate the far more complicated eukaryotic cells. Prokaryotic cells are those that makeup plants.

2. Mitochondrial DNA Forms Only a Small Portion of All DNA

By National Human Genome Research Institute [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Another key factor associated with mitochondrial DNA is that it accounts for only a small portion of all the DNA contained in a eukaryotic cell. Most of the DNA in a cell is found in the nucleus.

In human beings, there are 16,569 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA. These base pairs of mitochondrial DNA encode for only 37 genes.

The base pairs of mitochondrial DNA in humans is truly unique. Human beings are the only surviving members of what is known as the Hominina clade. This is a branch of a tribe that is part of the family of great apes. Human mitochondrial DNA was the initial significant part of the human genome project to be mapped, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

3. Mitochondrial DNA in Humans is Inherited Solely from a Mother

Happy mother

As is the case with most animals, mitochondrial DNA is inherited solely from a mother. Mitochondrial DNA evolves faster that does other genetic markers. As a result, mitochondrial DNA is at the heart of such things like evolutionary biology.

Mitochondrial DNA is also fundamental to phylogenetics. Phylogenetics is defined as the is the study of the evolutionary history. It is also the study of relationships among individuals, which makes mitochondrial DNA vital to home DNA test kits.

4. Mitochondrial DNA is Vital to Examining Relationships Between Populations

human population

On a related note, another important fact about mitochondrial DNA is that it allows a close examination of how different populations of people are related. As a consequence, mitochondrial DNA is vital in the fields of anthropology and biogeography.

Anthropology is the study of different aspects of humans in previous as well as existing societies. Biogeography is the study of the manner in which humans and other species have been distributed geographically and through geological time.

5. Finding Family Members

family pic

The information that can be derived via mitochondrial DNA has also proven invaluable when it comes to using genetic markers utilized to assist people in identifying or finding family members. This has become an increasingly sought after objective of home DNA testing.

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