Mitochondrial functions are driven by both macroevolutionary and microevolutionary genetics. The endosymbiont event created evolutionary contingencies that govern mitonuclear interactions in the cell. The high mutation rate for mtDNA generates new variaiton that alters fitness in natural populations.
Mitochondria are critical sesnors of cellular environmental state, which is ultimately driven by how the organism places itself into its natural, ecological setting. Energy transductions relating to nutirents, temperature, hypoxia, osmotic tension and virually all environmental stressors can be traced to modified mitochondrial funcitons.
Mitochondrial diseases are very common and mitonuclear interactions are increasinly recognized as critical factors in the etiology of diseease. Researhcers in this field recoginize the significance of mitonuclear epistatic interactions and genotpes-by-environment interactions in the discovery and treatment of diseaes.
The mito-nuclear genome is the most significant coevolved mutualism in the history of life
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Stephen T. Olney Professsor of Natural History
Chair, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Providence Rhode Island, USA 02912