Evolutionary implications of mitochondrial genetic variation: mitochondrial genetic effects on OXPHOS respiration and mitochondrial quantity change with age and sex in fruit flies

Jonci Wolff, N. Pichaud, Florencia Camus, G. Côté, P. U. Blier, Damian Dowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The ancient acquisition of the mitochondrion into the ancestor of modern-day eukaryotes is thought to have been pivotal in facilitating the evolution of complex life. Mitochondria retain their own diminutive genome, with mitochondrial genes encoding core subunits involved in oxidative phosphorylation. Traditionally, it was assumed that there was little scope for genetic variation to accumulate and be maintained within the mitochondrial genome. However, in the past decade, mitochondrial genetic variation has been routinely tied to the expression of life-history traits such as fertility, development and longevity. To examine whether these broad-scale effects on life-history trait expression might ultimately find their root in mitochondrially mediated effects on core bioenergetic function, we measured the effects of genetic variation across twelve different mitochondrial haplotypes on respiratory capacity and mitochondrial quantity in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. We used strains of flies that differed only in their mitochondrial haplotype, and tested each sex separately at two different adult ages. Mitochondrial haplotypes affected both respiratory capacity and mitochondrial quantity. However, these effects were highly context-dependent, with the genetic effects contingent on both the sex and the age of the flies. These sex- and age-specific genetic effects are likely to resonate across the entire organismal life-history, providing insights into how mitochondrial genetic variation may contribute to sex-specific trajectories of life-history evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-747
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Mother's curse
  • Genome conflict
  • Mitonuclear
  • MtDNA
  • Sexual conflict

Cite this