Horizontal mtDNA transfer between cells is common during mouse development

Nuria Marti Gutierrez, Aleksei Mikhalchenko, Hong Ma, Amy Koski, Ying Li, Crystal Van Dyken, Rebecca Tippner-Hedges, David Yoon, Dan Liang, Tomonari Hayama, David Battaglia, Eunju Kang, Yeonmi Lee, Anthony Paul Barnes, Paula Amato, Shoukhrat Mitalipov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Cells transmit their genomes vertically to daughter cells during cell divisions. Here, we demonstrate the occurrence and extent of horizontal mitochondrial (mt)DNA acquisition between cells that are not in a parent-offspring relationship. Extensive single-cell sequencing from various tissues and organs of adult chimeric mice composed of cells carrying distinct mtDNA haplotypes showed that a substantial fraction of individual cardiomyocytes, neurons, glia, intestinal, and spleen cells captured donor mtDNA at high levels. In addition, chimeras composed of cells with wild-type and mutant mtDNA exhibited increased trafficking of wild-type mtDNA to mutant cells, suggesting that horizontal mtDNA transfer may be a compensatory mechanism to restore compromised mitochondrial function. These findings establish the groundwork for further investigations to identify mtDNA donor cells and mechanisms of transfer that could be critical to the development of novel gene therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103901
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 18 2022


  • Cell biology
  • Developmental biology
  • Molecular biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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