Author(s): Wallace DC
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Abstract Studies on the origin of species have focused largely on anatomy, yet animal populations are generally limited by energy. Animals can adapt to available energy resources at three levels: (1) evolution of different anatomical forms between groups of animals through nuclear DNA (nDNA) mutations, permitting exploitation of alternative energy reservoirs and resulting in new species with novel niches, (2) evolution of different physiologies within intraspecific populations through mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nDNA bioenergetic genes, permitting adjustment to energetic variation within a species' niche, and (3) epigenomic regulation of dispersed bioenergetic genes within an individual via mitochondrially generated high-energy intermediates, permitting individual adjustment to environmental fluctuations. Because medicine focuses on changes within our species, clinically relevant variation is more likely to involve changes in bioenergetics than anatomy. This may explain why mitochondrial diseases and epigenomic diseases frequently have similar phenotypes and why epigenomic diseases are being found to involve mitochondrial dysfunction. Therefore, common complex diseases may be the result of changes in any of a large number of mtDNA and nDNA bioenergetic genes or to altered epigenomic regulation of these bioenergetic genes. All of these changes result in similar bioenergetic failure and consequently related phenotypes.
This article was published in Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol
and referenced in Journal of Cell Science & Therapy